From foster care to GCU grad: Carter defied the odds
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
Jacqueline Carter has experienced firsthand the effect substance addiction can have on a family. Several of her loved ones have struggled with it, forcing her to enter the foster care system at age 17.
She made the move just one week before she was scheduled to start attending Grand Canyon University. A concerned bystander saw her living situation and arranged to have her live on campus.
Fast forward to today. Carter, 21, has her bachelor’s degree in Counseling with an Emphasis in Addiction, Chemical Dependency and Substance Abuse and is enrolled to start working on a master’s early next year. She wants to help people like her family members recover and strive for successful lives.
Carter was a part of an incentive program created by the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) that encourages young adults in foster care to pursue higher education and vocational training.
Friday afternoon, DCS celebrated Carter’s accomplishment with cupcakes, a plaque and a check for $1,500. Mike Faust, Director of DCS, presented her with the plaque and check while also expressing the department’s pride in her.
“Where she may not see herself as an inspiration to others, she should know that we’re celebrating her because not only is she an inspiration to her peers, she’s also an inspiration to us who do this work,” he said. “When we’re able to see this level of success and positivity, to me that’s awesome.”
Several friendly faces from GCU surprised Carter at the event, including her favorite professor, Denise Krupp. Carter was asked to close her eyes before Krupp snuck into the room. When she opened her eyes, Carter broke into tears.
“I’m so proud of you,” Krupp said. “I’m glad that even when it got tough you never gave up and that you kept the focus on your dream, which is to go out there and help other people that are struggling and may have walked through some of the things that you did.”
Carter said she will never forget her experience at GCU, starting with her sudden entry into the foster care system.
“My world turned upside down that day,” she said. “I stayed in a home for a week until I moved into GCU and then I met all these people, and they’re like, ‘You don’t have to do this by yourself. We’re going to help you.’”
The sense of community helped Carter feel more at home on campus. So did GCU traditions such as basketball games, Lip Sync and Mr. GCU.
“I just kept my eye on the prize and just took it one day at a time,” Carter said.
Young adults who grew up in foster care don’t always have the means to afford higher education. Faust’s organization hopes to change that through its incentive program.
Carter’s advice to those who will follow in her footsteps:
“You will make it. Don’t give up just because of one circumstance, don’t give up because of 10 circumstances, just don’t give up. Not matter what happens, don’t give up and stay focused on your education and stay focused on your goals.
“If you stay focused on your goals, then it’s going to happen because that’s where your focus is.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].