By: Jacqueline Cruz ’20
From foster care to PLU dorm halls. A first year student’s journey to attending Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) has led her to view her opportunities here on campus with a much greater appreciation. Now 18 years old she recalls the memories she felt six years ago and how they have shaped her stance on the importance of education.
Kimberly Hollander, first year, was only twelve and in seventh grade when this life changing process occurred. Many emotions overtook her during this time that led her to lose friends and her good academic standing at the time. Her friends began to distance themselves from Hollander and her grades began to go down a steep downward spiral.
“I felt alone during this process,” said Hollander.
Coming back from summer break, Hollander was anything but feeling rejuvenated. She had only recently been placed into her foster home and the feelings this process left her with were still very fresh. She said she felt a mix of stress and feeling upset. Both these feelings led her to failing the majority of her classes. She was so concerned about her personal life that academics began to not be of much importance to her.
Not only was she losing focus in her academics but her relationships with her peers was also going down a bad path. The people she considered to be her friends began to step away from her because they didn’t want to be friends with a person who was so damaged. The reasoning her friends stepped out of her life left Hollander feeling even more alone and hurt as she recalls. She had just been removed from her family and now she was losing her friends.
Hollander said, “I felt a lot of guilt, because at the time I blamed myself for the pain inflicted on my family throughout this process. I also felt incredibly alone because no one I knew could relate to my emotions.”
In order to better her mental state and academics she sought out help from her school. She began to work with a teacher at her middle school that provided Hollander with support. Hollander also joined volleyball and yearbook committee, which did well at keeping her occupied and allowed her mind to not stress about her situation.
“The teacher who helped had recently adopted a pregnant girl from Somalia and knew how to go about my process. She was both an emotional and academic support system to me,” said Hollander.
Now a first generation college student Hollander has found that this hardship in her life has allowed her to persevere in the hardest of times. She is proud of her both her accomplishments and being a former foster child.
Braid Mission states that only 58 percent of foster children graduate high school by the age of nineteen and only around 3 percent make it to college, knowing this Hollander knew she had come far.
“I’m not ashamed of being a first generation college student because I feel like I’ve accomplished more than my parents ever could have,” said Hollander.
Applying for college was not difficult for her, as she knew where she wanted to go and what she wanted to do. Having had to make many hard decisions at an incredibly young age she knew right off the bat she wanted to come to a place like PLU. Here at PLU Hollander is hoping to pursue nursing and having learned that not everything is served to you on a silver platter she is patient and is working hard in order to get into the nursing program.
Hollander recalls the summer of 2016 and how joining summer academy, which was offered on campus was a great experience. PLU’s summer academy was a way for her to immerse herself into the college experience and helped prepare her for academic success at PLU. She recommends this experience to incoming first years as it was free of cost and allowed her to find a great support system for academic success on campus.
Chloe Jones, first year, describes Hollander as a person with a welcoming demeanor and an optimistic outlook on life.
“I see that Kimberly’s journey through foster care has shaped her into what I consider a hardworking person who has never seen something as ‘good enough.’ Through high school I saw her challenge herself in classes, something that I see has followed her to college.” said Jones.
She has found a sense of belonging at PLU through relationships she has built in this community. Hollander has found a good core group of friends, found professors who care for her, and found other faculty who show interest in her well being. She has been succeeding at PLU and hopes to continue to do so.