Students Rising Above
Dinnertime at the Saephan home is bustling, with 9 people to feed, including parents, teenagers, a wiggly toddler and newborn baby. Tommy Saephan has been living here with his aunt and uncle since middle school. It is exactly what he needed. “They’ve given me hope,” says Tommy. “I think that’s the biggest thing they could give to me. Hope.”
When Nancy Phung was a senior at San Rafael High School, she told us she wanted to change her family’s history. In June 2013, she did just that, as she graduated from UC Merced with a degree in Business Management. “I’m super proud of myself, “ she says. “I can’t believe I did this.. I am creating new paths and new footsteps for whoever is going to come after me.”
Shanita Talton did a graceful twirl as she walked across the stage at Zellerbach Hall at UC Berkeley to receive her college diploma, a bachelor’s degree in Social Welfare. But that accomplishment may be secondary to what Shanita accomplished at home, raising her four younger brothers and sisters in student housing, while working on her degree.
Kimberly Armstrong looked nervous as she approached the stage at the University of San Francisco, about to get her diploma as a Law School graduate. She had good reason to be overwhelmed with the depth of her accomplishment. More than half of the foster kids in California don’t even finish high school.
Yaqiao Li proudly wears the white coat of a research associate as she gazes into a microscope at the Gladstone Institute, affiliated with UCSF. She’s studying how the molecules in the brain work, specifically, what causes degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Tanea Lunsford became the first in her family to graduate from college this year- not just any college, but Columbia University. It was a leap for a kid with no money who had to grow up without her parents.
To find San Francisco native Tyre Ellison now, you would have to go to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he is a fellow with the prestigious Coro Fellows Program. It is a nine-month, graduate-level program in leadership training, and a long way from the Sunnydale Projects where he grew up.
Pasang Wangmo is just one new freshman face in the crowd at Oxford College at Emory University in Georgia.
Find out more about our students, what they have overcome and how they did it.
SRA’s commitment is to guide students through the college application process all the way to college graduation.