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Beating the odds

“I never thought college was a possibility. I had lost hope…”

Not so long ago, FlorEstrella Rojas — Stella to her friends — thought she had little to look forward to after high school graduation.

In the foster care system since age 6, she bounced from place to place, never attending the same school for very long. Personal safety was a frequent concern. School took a back seat to being primary caregiver for a disabled sibling.

Things took a turn for the better a while after the two arrived in Walton County. Stella attended Loganville High School for four years, despite changing homes three times.

The idea of college formed as her home life finally stabilized. Encouragement from a new foster family and a Department of Children and Family Services caseworker allowed her to believe she could be among the 3% of foster care youths who obtain a college degree.

By her senior year, Stella was earning good grades and teachers twice named her Student of the Semester. Dr. Brad Boleman, school principal, lauded her ability to “lean into the hard things and not only survive but thrive.”

Personal drive, plus a $4,000 Walton Electric Trust scholarship, are helping the local student achieve her college dream. She plans to attend Kennesaw State University, working toward a degree in criminology with a minor in psychology. After, she wants a career in law enforcement, specializing in forensics.

“I have spent my life being a statistic and am ready for that to change,” the 19-year-old said. “I’m now optimistic about my future.”