Rough Start Doesn’t Deter Former Foster Youth from a Bright Future

SDSU management major, Yosef Richardson credits hard work for his success

Life dealt Yosef Richardson a rough hand.

But with hard work and sheer determination, he has endured and excelled.

Richardson went from being confined to an Ethiopian orphanage to a confident young man about to embark on his senior year as a business student at San Diego State University.

From African Orphanage to America
Richardson’s story starts 21 years ago in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “My mother passed away when I was two years old and my father passed away when I was eight,” Richardson recalled. “After their deaths, I was placed in an orphanage in Addis Ababa.”

When he was 10, Yosef thought he caught a break when a family in Watsonville, California adopted him, along with two other children, and brought them to the United States. He came to the U.S. not knowing any English, but was determined to make the best of his new life.

Yosef Richardson

“My greatest strength in life is my willingness to keep working hard,” said Richardson. “When I first arrived in the United States, I didn’t speak English and I knew I was going to have to work ten times harder than my classmates. I failed a lot of tests that first year in the fifth-grade, but I was well-rounded the next year in the sixth-grade and continued to work hard to get into the seventh-grade.”

It was during the seventh-grade that life changed drastically for Richardson and his siblings.

Life in Foster Care
“Upon arriving in the U.S., our adoptive parents took advantage of us by having us work after school and often times, they didn’t feed us,” recalled Richardson. “After living with them for two years, my adoptive father became violent and that’s when Child Protective Services put us into the foster care system.”

While foster care wasn’t an ideal life for Richardson, he kept his situation in perspective and vowed to learn and grow with each challenge. As foster youth, he and his brother and sister stayed with four different families and bonded with each other during the process. “In some ways, moving helped me grow as a man and I learned different things from each family,” said Richardson. “Although we would have preferred to stay with one family, my siblings and I supported each other with each move and we’ve become very close.”

While there were many challenges facing him, there were some opportunities presented to Richardson along the way as well. His court-appointed special advocate was the late Bob McCabe who inspired him to continue to improve and do well in school. He was also able to find some stability in his life when he was able to attend Santa Cruz High School for all four years and he evolved into an outstanding student and a star soccer player.