"If I Didn't Get My Shit Together, I Was Going To Become A Statistic"

In our series A Class Of Their Own, Refinery29 is following five college freshwomen from across the country as they define their identities and relationships.
Shantell "Shay" House knows that throughout her life, the odds have been against her. "I've been in foster care since the age of two," she explains. "If I didn't get my shit together, I was going to become a statistic." Never adopted, House moved into her own apartment at age 16.

Growing up, she sensed that school would guide her to stability, and now, at 19 years old, she has just begun her freshman year at Mills College in Oakland, CA — a school she chose for its emphasis on social justice. "Oakland has a terrible public school system... I'm having to play catch-up," Shay admits. "Even though I got straight As [in high school], that work was nothing compared to college."

Instead of destroying her motivation, 14 years in what Shay refers to as the "dysfunctional, broken, inadequate" foster care system inspired her to fight to attend college — and strive to improve life for other kids in foster care, including LGBTQ youth like herself. "I want to be the founder of a business that changes the foster care system; I want more in-depth training for foster parents," she shares. "What keeps me going is to prove people wrong."
Watch the video above to learn more about this college freshwoman who's defying the odds.

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