There are more than 11,500 graduates in the class of 2020-21. Each student’s story is unique. Here is one of them.
Xavier Alexandre, B.A. in English/Writing, College of Humanities
A series of fortuitous meetings have opened doors that are leading Xavier Alexandre, 26, of North Hills, to the next significant step in establishing a career in the entertainment industry — earning a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing, and a full-time, paid internship with The Walt Disney Studios. It’s an opportunity he didn’t even imagine during his final year in high school years ago.
Alexandre first entered the foster care system when he was 8 years old and his sister was only weeks old. A family member took custody of the children for a while but, by the time Alexandre was 15, they were back in the system. His sister was placed with distant relatives. Alexandre bounced from foster family to foster family until a chance conversation with an aunt he never met before at weekend family gathering.
“Soon after, she started the process to get custody of me,” he said. “She provided me a home, made sure I had everything I needed and became a second mother to me.”
Alexandre had no intention of going on to college when he graduated from high school. No one in his family had ever gone, and he was worried that he would need information from his biological parents to apply.
A random meeting with a college counselor changed his mind. She told him that, as a foster child, parental information would not be a factor. Though he missed most of the college application deadlines, the counselor personally walked him through the community college application process.
“She, and my aunt, are the first angels who showed up in my life just when I needed them,” he said.
Alexandre enrolled at Los Angeles Valley College in 2014, before transferring to CSUN in 2018. That time period and his first two years at Northridge were not easy, as he struggled with the lack of support provided to youth, who, when they turn 18, are “aged out” of the foster care system, including finding permanent housing.
A chance conversation with a former mentor helped him find a place to live. He also found assistance through the Guardian Scholars Program at Valley College and CSUN’s Milt and Debbie Valera EOP Resilient Scholars Program. Both programs provide support to current and former foster youth.
It was through the Resilient Scholars Program that Alexandre learned about the Ready to Succeed Program, which provides career development guidance to current and former foster youth. The program connected him with mentors in the entertainment field, including the showrunner for the television series “The Walking Dead.”
While the pandemic caused some problems, it also provided Alexandre an opportunity to hunker down and focus on his studies. He is finishing his final semester at CSUN with straight As and a new mentor, in the form of English professor Martin Pousson.
“It’s amazing how much he gets me, and how much he has been there for me when I needed someone to talk to and believe in me,” Alexandre said.
He said Pousson re-enforced his passion for storytelling.
“I want to be able to tell the story, not of my life necessarily, but of the lives of people who have been in the foster system, who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, and the people out there who inspire us and keep us going,” he said.