Ready for College: A Mentor Makes All the Difference

“Without Mo Williams, I wouldn’t be attending college,” says Alex Torres, who is pursuing a degree in nursing at Mount San Antonio College this fall. Mo is one of two foster youth counselors in Bonita High School, part of a joint effort between the Alliance and Bonita Unified to better support students in foster care. “Foster youth miss out on years of guidance from parents, and you have to catch up on what you missed,” Alex explains. “Going through Bonita opened my eyes to having mentors and letting someone guide me. I still rely on her to guide me through some things. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to let her go, because she’s had such a big impact on my life.”

Like many young people in foster care, Alex had grown accustomed to navigating life without steady support. “Honestly, foster youth can perform just as well as the average student,” he says. “But sometimes we act disinterested in school because it hasn’t paid off as we’ve been moved around in the system, or we lose our motivation and passion because of things that are happening in our families. We’ve had to part ways with the important people in our lives, so we avoid getting close to new people. But Mo found a way to get in there. Having someone like Mo who understands your situation and can be your compass in the high school experience is invaluable.”

Alex remembers when Mo visited his group home and told him she believed in his future. “For me, seeing somebody from the school coming into my group home, wanting to talk to me about being there for me, was really different from anything I had experienced before,” says Alex. “That kind of thing hardly ever happens in the system. Having someone there to remind you about your future and about pursuing higher education is so important. That’s what got me where I am today.”

For more on how the Alliance is leading changes to improve education for youth in foster care, visit kids-alliance.org/edtoolkit.