“The light turned on when my mom took in my cousins,” said Kimberly Ornelas. “Taking in my cousins as foster sisters made me realize the system has a long way to go.”
As Ornelas supported her mother in caring for her cousins, she learned more about the foster care system, social work, and what “family” and “community” meant to her. This ignited her passion to help her community and find opportunities to help make positive change.
Ornelas heard about the Maisin Scholarship Program opportunity through her older sister, who had previously applied. Ornelas and her sister both participated in Mission Graduates, an organization based in San Francisco’s Mission District that provides a wide range of after school, in-school, and summer programs helping to establish college education as an expectation and goal for every child.
She heard about the Maisin Scholarship Program through Mission Graduates during presentations and conversations with program mentors. With encouragement from the organization and her sister, Ornelas submitted an application.
“My family lives in public housing and I didn’t want my parents to bear the financial burden of college,” said Ornelas. “I started working at 14 years old and already knew college was in my future. It wasn’t a hard choice to research and apply for scholarships. My parents always told me to climb upward to what you want.”
Ornelas received the Bayview Hunters Point Latino Scholarship award. Outside of her studies, Ornelas is a passionate volunteer in her community, helping to tend to her neighborhood garden while teaching young children about cultivation and harvesting. Ornelas plans to pursue a degree in criminal justice at Sacramento State University and aspires to be a detective one day. The Maisin Scholarship is sponsored by the SFPUC and its social impact partners, Carollo Engineers and Water Resources Engineering, Inc.
In her application, Ornelas shared about how she witnessed and experienced violence throughout her life, as well as her experience with the foster care system through her cousins. This propelled her to intern at the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) this summer.
“My takeaway from my internship is that the Police Department how it lives out its mission to provide service with understanding, respond with compassion, and perform with integrity – all of which I value and live out as well,” shared Ornelas.
When asked what she would advise other young people about deciding what to do with their future, Ornelas responded, “Coming from a family of eight, with my youngest siblings at ages 6 and 3, I would tell them to realize what you want to do before taking action. Once you decide what to do and where to go, build relationships and connections that may help you make changes to make a positive impact in the community. Climb toward your future.”