Former foster youth strives


Denise Barajas

On a campus filled with so many successful students and faculty members it can become easy to start comparing oneself to others and feeling as though you are not “good enough.”

Questions like, “They’re graduating, why aren’t I?” “Why do I not have my life as well put together as them?” “Why can’t I be more like him/her?” can often plague some students to the point of depression.

However, it is when students become engrossed in all the things that they should or could be doing to keep up with their colleagues that they miss out on the bigger picture.

Thoughts like these can make it is easy to assume that the people we perceive as successful have it easy and often undermine how much the individual has overcome.

Take for example fifth-year criminology and sociology major Lonniel Myles. If you were to pay a visit to Myles at his work office, on the surface you would encounter a soft-spoken man in dress clothes who seems to be pretty well put together.

He is a DEGREES project coach, so his position as someone who helps transfer students make their progress to degree by advising them and making sure they are on track, would most likely reinforce that initial assumption. And if it did not, the fact that he also volunteers for the new Martin Luther King Jr. center on campus as a mentor because his mantra has always been to “give back,” just might.

To the random individual who encounters him, Myles is just a hardworking and giving person. However, it is not until you have a conversation with him about his life that you realize his work ethic is driven by a much bigger purpose.

“I try to reach out to the African-American population because that is a big population on campus that has low graduation rates and because their is a lot of former foster youth in that group that I have learned about while working with them,” Myles said. “It’s rewarding being able to share my story with them and for them to be able to see that they can make it too and that there is a way.”

Myles is a former foster youth. From the time he was five and his younger brother was three, they went in and out of the foster system until they both aged out. Unlike Myles, his parents set course for a different path that did not include academia. His motivation to come to college and to help others is driven by his desire to be different than his absent parents.

“My biological parents were far from great. Drugs and alcohol became their life and it ruined them because they were unable to build their life together or with their kids,” Myles said. “So for me, they are my motivation. I work hard at what I do because I just never want to end up like that.”

When discussing the foster care system Myles said, “I have seen both sides, the good and bad but ultimately when you start young and you’re bouncing back and forth between homes, you can’t help but develop this mindset that you are not going to make it, that you are not worth much and that there’s no one really in your corner.”

Now, despite experiencing so much as a child, Myles is well on his way toward graduating and is a prime example of Sacramento State’s motto, “redefining the possible by doing the unexpected.”

“I have had a lot of help along the way,” he said. “There has definitely been a lot of counselors and educators that have helped me.”

It goes without saying that no matter how put together a person may come across, every individual comes with a story and a long list of barriers they may have had to overcome to get to where they are. Sometimes, it can become easy to compare oneself to another individual and feel inferior, but that person you define as successful has most likely gone through so much you are not aware of.