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Former Foster Care Student Says “Never Give Up”

Travis doderlein story mainTravis Doderlein should know: It was the cause of his and his five siblings’ journey into foster care.Substance abuse has led to the undoing of many individuals and families.

Still, Doderlein is luckier than many in the system. He has the support of his long-time foster parents with whom he still lives when he’s not taking classes at SDSU. But it wasn’t always that way.

Substance Abuse Tears the Family Apart

Doderlein has lived nearly his entire life in Newbury Park, California which is northwest of Los Angeles. His mother became addicted to drugs and his father turned to alcohol during his childhood. Eventually, the couple’s substance abuse and constant fighting led authorities to remove their six children from their home. Doderlein was in the eighth grade at the time.

As is often the case, he was separated from his siblings with the two youngest going to one home and the two in the middle going to another home. Doderlein, who is the oldest child and his sister (the second oldest, now a community college student) got lucky – they have lived with the same foster family since their ordeal began and it is still where they call “home”.

And though Doderlein had some stability in his life, there was no positive influence or individual to be a role model or to mentor him. “Life felt like nothing but downs for a long time,” he said. “I told myself every day to just continue to be a good person, and, if I hung on long enough and worked hard, things would eventually get better.”

"I told myself every day to just continue to be a good person, and, if I hung on long enough and worked hard, things would eventually get better."

Seizing a Good Opportunity

That moment came when Doderlein realized he had an opportunity to attend San Diego State through the Guardian Scholars program. He had always been an excellent student as well as a member of the baseball team at Newbury Park High School and knew he was going to college. When his foster dad told him about the support offered by Guardian Scholars, he knew he was in.

SDSU’s Guardian Scholars program provides resources such as housing, financial aid and tutoring services to those students who have turned 18 and are no longer qualified for foster care assistance.

“They are there to support you through anything, whether you need basic commodities for everyday living or just someone to talk to, they are there,” said Doderlein. “They do a great job at making the atmosphere like family and that is my favorite part of the program.”

"They do a great job at making the atmosphere like family and that is my favorite part of the program."

A Plan for the Future

Doderlein is now about to enter his junior year at San Diego State as a management major with a significant goal in mind. “I love all sports and I have always felt that I would be happy if I had a career in the sports industry,” he said. “SDSU offers a Sports Business MBA which I plan to pursue once I earn my bachelor’s degree.”

While Doderlein has a stable life and a bright future, his father has entered his life once again and has regained custody of the four youngest children. “My dad has worked very hard and has been sober for the past five years,” he noted. “He bought a house near my foster parents where he lives with my other four siblings. My mother has also come back into their lives, but I have not connected with her yet. After all she’s put us through, I don’t know when - or if - I will re-establish a relationship with her again.”

While his relationship with his mother is still up-in-the-air, his advice to other promising foster youth students is well-grounded. “Never give up. There are so many options and opportunities in the world, you should never feel hopeless, but no one is going to hand it to you,” advised Doderlein. “You have to work hard to not repeat the mistakes of your parents or relatives. If you take control of your situation, things will eventually turn around for you.”