Christina Alvarado is gearing up to walk across the graduation stage this December to receive her bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Sonoma State. Getting to this moment wasn’t easy.
Christina entered the foster care system as a young child after experiencing homelessness.
She was separated from her brothers and faced an uncertain future. She was eventually adopted, but her brothers’ foster family moved across the country, causing Christina to feel isolated.
Christina recalled her relationship with her brothers. “We were attached and we tried to stay in contact. Then a few years ago, they moved across the country which took a toll on me and my mental health.” She said.
The upheaval of her childhood and separation from her siblings made the decision to pursue college difficult.
She recalls, “I was kind of always anxious that I would fall into [my parents’] paths.”
After a visit from Sonoma State to her high school and encouragement from her teachers, she chose to enroll.
“My major is Sociology and right now, I’m working with kids as a Behavior Specialist. My experience growing up led me to pursue my major and want to help other people around me.”
In September, Christina’s plans were upended when she had to cut her hours at work due to strict curfew rules that accompanied her housing. Unable to afford rent and necessities, she moved five hours away, putting all of her hard-won progress in jeopardy.
JBAY was there to lend the helping hand she needed.
Christina received financial support from JBAY’s Critical Needs and Opportunity Fund to bridge the gap when things got tough. She recalls, “During that time, money was very minimal, so I couldn’t pay for food or groceries or school supplies….” With JBAY’s assistance covering some of these necessities, Christina was able to focus on moving back toward school and staying on track for graduation.
Christina explained that one of the biggest ways JBAY helped her was by knowing that people actually care. “I feel like it showed that there are people out there to support people like me who have been through what I’ve been through in the system and with homelessness.”
JBAY’s Critical Needs and Opportunity Fund provides direct assistance to youth facing emergencies like Christina’s. Since July, JBAY has provided assistance to 192 youth who were in foster care or experienced homelessness to cover expenses like housing, food, clothing, schoolbooks and transportation. This number will reach 1,100 by June of 2024.
When asked what she would like others to know about her experience, she says:
“Not all of us have the support that most people have when it comes to education and financial needs. Programs like JBAY’s is a huge factor in continuing our education because it allows us that one little piece of financial support, whether that’s getting books for class, or getting something to eat for the day.”
To learn more about the JBAY Critical Needs and Opportunity Fund, click here.