June 17, 2021

From Foster Care to Harvard


Imagine going from foster care to Harvard when only 3% of people who’ve experienced foster care graduate from college. The obstacles foster youth face often make college a distant dream.

These odds did not deter Kelisha Williams from living out her dreams and now she heads out to Harvard University on a full scholarship this fall.

The Ohio teen entered the foster care system at 16 and has had five different placements over the last two years. Thankfully, she found the support to keep focused on her dreams in her foster mom Maria Finkenstead.

Following a Dream

Williams is a hard-working teen, allocating her time between school, college prep, and her job at Walmart. While soucing a 32 on the ACT, Williams applied to Harvard as a joke, not thinking she would get in.

Soon she had to complete her admissions interview and found herself speaking with Lin Manuel Miranda and former First Lady Michelle Obama. It was her interview with Obama that motivated Williams to set her eyes on Harvard as a real possibility. In the interview, Williams asked Obama how she kept moving forward even with so many people stacked against her, Obama replied,

You just have to keep going. No one’s ever fully always on your side.

Screams of Happiness, Tears of Joy

The time came to check her admissions status and Williams couldn’t believe her eyes. A burst of confetti crossed the screens with the words “Congratulations” scrolling in the center.

I started screaming at first, and then I started crying and was pretty hysterical after that.

Williams is excited to start her freshman year at Harvard this fall. She is studying political science and psychology. Her hope is that her story can help other kids in foster care deal with the issues she’s experienced. In an interview with WCPO, she said,

To any of the foster kids that are watching, everyone always says it’s going to get better. I never used to believe that when I was going through it and stuff like that. Eventually, it does.

Congratulations Kelisha!

Congratulations Kelisha! Truly an inspiration to us all, going from foster care to Harvard is a huge achievement. We look forward to all the amazing things you will accomplish in the future.

For those wanting to help more foster youth actualize their college dreams, please donate to the Family Fellowship here. It is the largest scholarship for current and former foster youth in the US.


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