Youth Voices: Maritza’s Story
By Shaoming Chang
County of Orange Social Services Agency
Maritza, 18, didn’t think she could graduate from high school, much less attend college. But with support and encouragement from her aunt and friend, she is attending Santiago Canyon College and plans to transfer to a university to earn a bachelor’s degree in child psychology. She also works part-time to pay for school.
Conversations with her aunt and friend allowed Maritza to dream big — something many youth in care don’t get to do. “My aunt and friend kept talking to me about attending college and planning for the future,” Maritza said. “They motivated me and are my support system.” Maritza credits her college experience with boosting her confidence. As a result, she completed the necessary tasks to apply for transitional housing — a program for youth leaving foster care that provides housing and support services to promote independent living.
Maritza’s foster care journey presented some challenges and opportunities for growth. She felt anxious about attending a new school and sensed a disconnect between her and her resource parents. Participating in therapy taught Maritza how to share her thoughts and manage negative feelings in a healthy way. She also learned how to advocate for herself. She is grateful to the staff at the Short-Term Residential Therapeutic Program (STRTP) (formerly known as a group home) that supported her. “They would take me for a ride when they noticed I was stressed or upset — they understood,” she said. With her determination and self-confidence, Maritza is destined for a bright and successful future.