Former Foster Child Defies Odds, Heads to UCLA on Full-Ride Scholarship

Festus Ohan, a 22-year-old graduate of the University of California, Riverside, hasn’t let his upbringing in the foster care system bring him down. He has been accepted to nine medical schools.

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Festus Ohan speaks to ABC 7 in a video interview.

KABC- TV

Growing up as a foster child, bouncing from one home to the next, can be a traumatic experience with long-term effects. But Festus Ohan hasn’t let his lot in life deter him from striving for more, even while acknowledging that the wounds left after his father abandoned him remain fresh.

“I went to bed in tears crying, praying, asking God, ‘Why did this happen to me?’” Ohan said, according to ABC 7.

He can’t keep track of how many foster homes he cycled through—seven, maybe eight, reports ABC 7. “My time in the foster care system was the worst time in my life,” Ohan says, which made focusing on doing well in school all the more challenging.

“Early on in high school, I got in trouble for fighting a lot, and I was in a pre-expulsion contract,” Ohan told ABC 7.

Still, Ohan, 22, held tightly to his dreams of one day attending medical school, despite ridicule from his foster parents. “Constantly hearing my foster parents throw statistics at me, about [how] there’s only a 1 percent chance that a foster kid will even graduate college, let alone attend professional school, kind of impacted me in a way,” Ohan continued.

Even with the odds stacked against him, Ohan graduated from the University of California, Riverside, with a degree in neuroscience and has received acceptance letters from medical schools throughout the country, including those at Northwestern, Columbia and Cornell universities; the University of Houston; the University of California, San Francisco, and University of California, Los Angeles; and the University of Southern California.

Jan Forrester, director of scholarships at UC Riverside, said that she “felt like a proud parent” when she heard the good news about his acceptance letters, and can still recall the day she met Ohan, reports ABC 7.

“He had never heard that he could do this before. You could start to see him start to believe he could be a doctor,” she told ABC 7.

Come fall, Ohan will attend UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine with a fellowship that will cover all of his expenses. “I actually start Aug. 4, so I’ll have, like, a six-week break, but I’m excited for the next step in my journey,” Ohan said.

Ohan hopes that his difficult journey will inspire other young people who may be struggling in life. “Never give up; really hold on to your dreams because as long as you’re able to stick through it and persevere, you will accomplish your goals,” Ohan told ABC 7.

Read more at ABC 7.

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