Sometimes, it takes an act of extraordinary courage to lift oneself out of a seemingly insurmountable situation.

Noah, a 2016 Maisin Scholar Award recipient, found himself making one of these choices at the age of 16 when he voluntarily entered foster care.

Now, more than three years since that decision, he has big plans for his future. During the summer he landed an internship position at a nonprofit in the Mission, and he just entered his second semester at University of California, Irvine. He wants to study business administration so he can one day become an entrepreneur and perhaps open a nonprofit of his own.

Noah told us that if he could impart just one message to others, it would be this:

“I want people to know that no matter what circumstance you’re in, whatever situation you’re living in, there always is a way to get yourself out and into a better life — into a better future.  It just depends on how you see it. If you’re that person that blames everything for the reason why your life is the way it is, then it’s only going to go downhill for you, because you’re not helping yourself [and] the problems just build up. So I think just being able to acknowledge that you can help yourself — and you can seek for help too, and that it’s OK to seek for help — is huge.”

We are excited to share with you a condensed version of Noah’s Maisin Scholar Award personal essay with permission:

“During the middle of my sophomore year, I had to make one of the biggest decisions in my life. I decided that I would have to turn myself over to Child Protective Services. My mother had raised my brothers and me by herself, and she was struggling. I couldn’t stand to see her fall apart just so we could eat. I was sent to the foster care facility the same day.

I went through foster care for about a year. My mother has always been my number one motivation, and during that time I worked harder than ever before. I stayed persistent in everything I did. I was a part of the basketball team, the SF STEM Academy program and had a job at Footlocker. I wanted to keep myself busy and made sure I took advantage of every opportunity I had.

A year later, I was finally reunited with my mom. My mother has influenced me to become the best person I can be. She is the reason why I work hard in school. I know that education is my ticket out of poverty and to a bright future. To not see my mother struggle anymore would be my number one goal, and because I’ve kept busy and worked hard in everything I did in the past two years, I feel prepared and determined to take the next step in my life, college.

I know how important my education is. I am determined to pass every single class of mine with an A, even if it means staying up late nights in order to guarantee it. My goal to become a business entrepreneur is about to begin.

Living in poverty has motivated me to do bigger and better things in life. After obtaining my college degree, I look forward to the opportunities that’ll be knocking on my door. I know that all the work I had to go through in school will finally pay off. I’ll be the first generation to finish college after all the sweat and tears I put in. Then I’ll be able to help those that are in the same shoes I’m in today. I want to be able to help low-income minorities achieve their full potential and not let their income determine where they go in life. I’ve always wanted to open a nonprofit organization that would help kids fulfill their dreams, just like the organizations and people that helped me fulfill mine.”

Want to help us select the next class of Maisin Scholars and award funding to students like Noah? Volunteer to serve as a scholarship application reviewer.