More than 23,000 age out of the nation’s foster system annually—less than 3 percent of whom will earn a college degree in their lifetime. This is one of four profiles celebrating students in the Promoting Achievement Through Hope (PATH) Scholars program, each of whom is reversing that narrative with the support of staff and their peers. All of the profiles can be accessed in our introductory story.
As she left home for the first time, it was not how Angel Bliss once imagined the time-honored milestone of independence.
The move, at age 15, also perhaps saved her life.
When Angel was in high school, her parents were embroiled in a tumultuous divorce, filling the house with persistent arguing, a barrage of insults, and physical violence. The toxicity escalated to the point where she became desperate to escape.
“It was a really severe domestic violence situation—I had to move out for my own safety,” she said. “I stayed with friends for a while and then ultimately decided to move in with my older sister because I wanted to try to finish high school.”
Angel’s sister, who had a family of her own, was her lifeline, providing the teenager a safe haven and continuity. She continued attending high school, threw herself into cheerleading, scored a restaurant job within walking distance from her sister’s home, and committed fully to her studies. By the time Angel finished high school, she had racked up 11 academic scholarships along the way.
The next natural step was college. Having marked her unaccompanied homeless student status on her Chico State application, once she was accepted, PATH Scholars immediately offered her support. Angel chose to major in political science with an option in legal studies, and tried to navigate the system as best she could.
With PATH Scholars, she found a community that greeted her with care, kindness, and compassion for her well-being. The staff and her peers helped keep her on track. From using its free printing services and grabbing a snack between classes to having a place to do homework and build community, Angel has used PATH Scholars to connect with resources to keep her motivated and encouraged. Working 40 hours a week at a local grocery store, she has managed to maintain excellent grades and connect with friends.
“I’ve always felt like it was a waste of my potential if I didn’t continue to push through higher education,” she said. “Especially because of everything that people like PATH Scholars have invested in me. I would not be where I am today without them.”
Angel’s life became busier in December 2020 when her son was born during finals week. While she was in labor, she called the professor whose final was scheduled for that day to see if she could postpone while her baby arrived 11 days early.
“I took the final the next day and did very well,” she said. “I got a 4.0 grade point average that semester.”
Now with a newborn, Angel leaned on PATH Scholars once again, as the program connected her with Chico State Basic Needs to obtain emergency housing that could accommodate the two of them.
Being a student-parent has added to her challenges, Angel admits. Every outing with her curious, energetic 17-month-old son, whether it’s to the grocery store or to the on-campus child development lab for daycare during her classes, means a litany of tasks just to get from point A to point B—and Angel is doing it by herself.
“Just as any parent knows, doing one little task means putting the stroller in the car, making sure there are snacks, getting him in the car seat, getting the stroller out of the car,” she said. “It’s a lot.”
There have been moments when the grind has become so much that dropping out of school felt like the best option.
“I have definitely considered it, but it always comes down to, ‘What is a couple years of my life in comparison to struggling for the rest of my life?’” she said. “I think it’s worth it for me to push through right now and earn my degree so I can get a good job.”
She thinks almost daily about how she is defying expectations.
“I’m a first-generation student. My mother’s an immigrant. I’m a single mother. I feel like I’m breaking a lot of stereotypes,” Angel said.
After graduation, she hopes to become a paralegal—she currently interns at the University’s Community Legal Information Clinic—working in environmental law or environmental policy. And while she’s improving lives of others by fighting for environmental justice, Angel will also be bettering the life of the one who means the most: her son.
“I don’t want to do something that’s only going to make money,” she said. “I want to fulfill my potential to support my son and live the kind of life that I want to live.”
The odds are stacked against them. Show PATH Scholars students you believe in their educational dreams and ensure they have the resources to achieve them by making a gift today at www.csuchico.edu/fosteryouth.