Former Foster Youth. Future Art Therapist.
Missy Hart was the first person in her family to get a high school diploma. Next June, she’ll also become the first to graduate from college. “I always wanted to go to college, but I didn’t know how to make it happen,” said Hart. “Foothill opened the door for me.”
Hart’s maternal grandparents emigrated from Mexico to California to work in the orchards. They eventually saved enough money to move to Redwood City, where Hart grew up. Hart’s father died when she was young, and her mother often worked two or three jobs at a time to support Hart and her brother.
With little supervision, Hart started getting into trouble and hanging out with neighborhood gangs. She became a ward of the court at age 11 and bounced from group homes to lockdown facilities around the state. When she was released from state custody at 18, Hart found herself homeless. She stayed with friends and worked two jobs to save enough to rent a room.
Hart still dreamed of getting an education. She enrolled in an adult school and took classes toward her diploma at night. After that first milestone, Hart took a chance. She quit her job and enrolled at Foothill College full-time.
“I didn’t even know how I was going to pay rent. I just put my faith in the universe,” Hart said. “I wanted to prove everyone wrong.”
At Foothill, Hart entered the Foster Youth Program, which provides supportive services to help students transition to college. Her liaison in the program helped her get a job on campus as a peer assistant in the Community Ambassador Program (CAP). Community ambassadors do a wide range of activities on campus, including outreach, mentoring and supporting undocumented students. That job turned into a peer advisor role in which Hart does outreach work at local high schools. Hart also frequently sits on student panels to share her story.
“It was always hard for me to ask for help because I did everything on my own. Since coming to Foothill I’ve learned how to form relationships and talk to people from all different walks of life,” Hart said. “I used to wonder why I had to go through all that, but it’s given me my purpose in life.”
Hart has her eyes set on the Karl S. Pister award to UC Santa Cruz when she graduates in 2018. She plans to earn a master’s degree and start a group home for teens focused on art therapy.
“People see that I want to do well and they help me not because of how far I’ve come, but because they want me to succeed,” Hart added. “I want to be the person that I needed when I was younger.”