A Ray of Hope for Children, Youth, Young Adults, and Families
May 2019 Newsletter
Beating the Odds!

Previous Valley Teen Ranch Foster Youth
Graduate from College
The statistics on youth that grow up in foster care graduating from college are alarmingly low, anywhere between 3 and 5 %. With the right support youth can beat the odds! Please read about three youth: DJ, Crystal and Jessica who are all graduating from college this year with Bachelor’s Degrees. Each of these youth has defied the odds and overcome obstacles to achieve this amazing accomplishment.

The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” couldn’t be more true. These youth who were placed in loving foster homes through Valley Teen Ranch  have had biological family, foster families, social workers, mentors, teachers and more help them in their journey. We can’t wait to follow the rest of their life journey and continue to celebrate all of their accomplishments.
Meet Dale (DJ) Ditto
Dale Ditto (DJ) decided in junior high that he wanted a Ph.D. At the time, college did not seem likely because of how terrible things were going at home. He would escape his home environment by focusing on school. In fact, DJ participated in a sport every season and got involved with things he knew was good for him. While at Fresno High School he participated in drama, debate, SAB (Student Advisory Board) and was the Historian for ASB (Associate Student Body).

In 2011, during his sophomore year of high school, DJ and his sister were removed from their home by Child Protective Services. He and his sister were placed briefly in a foster home for a few months, and for a year a mentor was arranged for. On New Year’s Eve of 2012, they were placed in the Valley Teen Ranch foster home of Randy and Raeann Tyler. DJ describes the Tylers as the most loving, supportive family. 

After high school, DJ applied to Fresno State and was accepted into the Renaissance Scholars Program which serves students attending Fresno State who experienced foster care or unaccompanied youth. DJ was determined not to be like his biological family who was uneducated and troubled. The path was not always easy, and at times he felt alone. He knew that he had the Tylers (whom he refers to as Mom and Dad) and siblings, but its not the same family support as others had. 

DJ just kept one foot in front of the other. He served as the Program Student Coordinator for the Renaissance Scholars Program for two years and completed a University Admissions and Recruitment Internship. In May of 2019, DJ will walk across the stage and receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. He became a McNair scholar in 2018 which helps first generational college students and underrepresented populations with higher education. He states that there was not one person that was integral in helping him succeed but many support people throughout his life who made a difference. 

This is not the end of DJ’s educational journey. He has recently been accepted into the Advanced Standing Master’s Program in Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He will be working as a research assistant for Dr. Mark Courtney. DJ wants to support special populations at the university level and help them be successful. After doing two years of post-masters work to gain experience, he plans to obtain his Ph.D. and become a professor, and one day a University President. 

Meet Crystal Enriquez
Crystal entered the foster care system in 2002 at the age of 6. She was placed with Terry and Karee Moore, certified foster parents through Valley Teen Ranch, for two years until 2004 when she reunified with her biological mother. In 2006 Crystal was back in the system and spent the next five years from 2006-2011 in and out of foster care. Crystal’s motivation to finish high school was the fact that school was her safety zone. Living with her biological mother during most of her high school years was tough. She had hope in something different than what her biological family had. Terry and Karee gave her a safety net whenever she was going through hard times with her biological mother and siblings. The Moores took her to church and had her over at their home. In 2014 she graduated high school.

The first challenge in Crystal’s college career was that she didn’t get accepted to any colleges to which she had applied. Phong Yang, the Director of Admissions at Fresno State helped Crystal go down the proper avenues to get her admission denial to Fresno State overturned. The challenges of college continued as she felt unspoken pressure of owing everyone that helped her get into college and her biological mother was very reliant on Crystal. There was a point when Crystal felt she couldn’t take care of herself, was unmotivated and it was hard to keep up with her academics. During her junior year she stopped showing up in the middle of the semester. She had previously failed one semester and was off track with graduation. Adriana Vasquez in the Renaissance Scholars Program helped her pull through and was always pouring into her. Terry and Karee let Crystal move back into their home to save money. She stayed for two years with them and then lived on her own for her 5 th year of college. She met professors that gave her hope. Terry and Karee gave her the wisdom and courage to continue pursuing her education and reach her goals. During her time at Fresno State she worked at the American English Institute on Fresno State Campus and was a part of the Renaissance Scholars Program.

Crystal will be walking across the stage at Fresno State this month and then will be moving to Amarillo, TX where she will finish up her degree online in December. She will earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics and wants to teach English as a Second Language. She has already been gaining experience by teaching employees of Agriland Farming Co. English two times per week. She will be applying for grad school in 2020 to obtain her Master’s in Education. Her long-term goal is to teach adults. 

Meet Jessica Martinez
Jessica entered foster care, along with her twin brother and younger sister, two days after Christmas in 2004 at the age of 7. She was in one foster home for several years and then another foster home for approximately six months before being placed with Terry and Karee Moore, certified foster parents through Valley Teen Ranch, just a few days before Christmas in 2010. After arriving at the Moore home Jessica was hesitant at first. A few months in she started to trust them and enjoyed living there. After the Moores took the children on their first trip to Disneyland a few months later Jessica knew that no matter what happened the Moores would always be supportive and still provide.

Jessica recalls that she always wanted to go to college. Jessica started running when she lived at her first foster home. She began excelling and beating everyone in PE. In 3 rd grade she started participating in track and cross country formally through school. She wanted to do something that made her feel good and feel proud. She continued participating in track and cross country and even became the captain of cross country team at Bullard High School. She received her first recruit letter from a college for running during her freshman year of high school. Colleges continued to send her recruit letters throughout her high school years, maybe 25 or so in total. In 2015 she graduated from Bullard High School and she was accepted to Azusa Pacific University in Southern California. She was red shirted her first year and due to injuries only competed approximately one and a half years on the track team at Azusa.

Jessica’s college career also came with some challenges. During her second semester of college finances were short. She turned to Connie Clendenan (former CEO) and Valley Teen Ranch to help her fundraise money. The money fundraised through Valley Teen Ranch was matched by Mark Borba. Overall college was an amazing experience for Jessica. She made great friends and had amazing coaches. There were so many people who were influential. Terry and Karee have continuously supported her, along with some of her biological family and other mentors. Terry and Karee emphasized the Importance of being a first generation graduate and she would be role model for her younger sister. Jessica will be earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Exercise Science. She will then start working at a private Christian school that teaches pre-school – 8 th grade nearby as a teacher’s assistant as she starts applying to work at physical therapy clinics around town. She is overjoyed to be walking in a graduation ceremony in front of family and friends. She wants to be a role model to other previous foster youth and first generation college graduates. 
The Foster Family and Adoption Agency Staff
Our team prides themselves on providing excellent services to our Resource Families (also known as Foster Families) and youth in care. The staff goes above and beyond to provide support, resources, and advocacy for both the child and the Resource Families. One of the agency’s primary goals is to build a trusting and secure relationship with the clients we serve.

There is always a need for loving homes to open up their hearts and homes to children in need. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Resource Family please contact us at ffa@valleyteenranch.org or (559) 437-1144.

I ntroducing the Foster Family and Adoption Agency staff: Jennifer Moore, Kimmie Kawamoto, Maria Chia and
Alicia Longcor Abi-Rached (pictured left to right)