By YESENIA AMARO
Growing up, Portia Mira spent several years in the foster care system in Merced County.
Many of the children and youth who grow up in the system come from broken homes, she said, “leading them to failure.”
But failure was not in her plans.
“You can’t go wrong if you stay in school,” said Mira, 23, a senior majoring in biology at UC Merced. She is also an example of the success that foster children can have if they continue to pursue an education despite the challenges they face.
She’s not only a student, but a mother, wife and caregiver.
In addition to her school responsibilities, she finds time to raise her 18-month-old daughter, Briana, and to look after her 85-year-old biological grandmother.
Later this summer, she will begin to take responsibility for her younger sister, Akilah Kurpiel, when she turns 18 and emancipates from the foster care system. Akilah has special needs.
“I’m the only one that my grandmother has, I’m the only one that my sister has,” Mira said. “They depend on me.”
She also takes care of chores in the household, though her husband, Jairo, is supportive and helps.
“I’m so busy, I don’t really get to have free time,” she said. “I consider my free time when I’m in school.”
Mira expects to graduate from UC Merced next year and might further her education. “I see myself going into a master’s or Ph.D. program.”
She said she’s glad she had good foster parents who helped guide her in the right direction.
“I’ve heard all the stories of those who are not in it for the right reason,” she said of foster parents who might be more interested in the money than providing the kind of parenting that can help children succeed, as she did.
Mira said she hopes her story will encourage other foster children not to drop out of school. She said sometimes they feel like they’re not worth anything, and they lose interest in pursuing an education.
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