Diane Diaz had overcome a lot in her 18 years.
At age 14, her family split up. She was separated from her mom, older sister, and two brothers, and put into a foster care home with her twin sister.
The resource family (formerly known as a foster family) was loving and kind, but she missed her birth family. Her mind also fell back on old messages she’d heard growing up that she’d never be any good, never even graduate from middle school, and that she’d end up pregnant without any education. Struggling academically, she barely made Cs in middle school. The first semester of high school, she received all Fs.
Second semester, Diane began to change. She decided to apply herself to her studies, and turned her grades around to all As. She joined the school hip-hop team, finding she had a talent and passion for dancing. She kept her grades up sophomore year as well.
Diane had turned into a top student, but there was one final hurdle she couldn’t clear – the conviction that she wasn’t college material. “I never even considered it,” she said. “It was for other people, but not me.”
Junior year, however, she met foster care social worker Adriana Moratinos, who works for Hillsides affiliate, Bienvenidos. Part of Adriana’s job was visiting with Diane once a month. Every time she did, she had only one thing on her mind.
“Adriana would ask me, did you research schools, did you learn about scholarships, did you finish your paperwork, what about the FAFSA?” said Diane. “At first, I was setting my sights only on a junior college, but Adriana told me, you’re going to be putting in the work at a junior college, so why not just do it at a four-year university?”
Diane picked California State University, Northridge as her top choice, in part because it was Adriana’s alma-mater. She applied early her senior year, and was accepted.
Currently Diane is a freshman, receiving all As. She has decided to study education and history so she can pursue a career as a high school history teacher. Gone are the days when she doubted her ability to handle college, even if some days she feels like pinching herself to make sure she isn’t dreaming.
“I have pushed myself way beyond my expectations,” she says. “I am just so thankful that I have had people in my life like Adriana to help me go beyond where I thought I could go.”