Growing up, Mich Hamlin would sleep next to a trash bin in Pomona, kicking away the leaves to make room for his family to sleep.
Now, just three weeks ago, 23-year-old Hamlin graduated from college, joining the 3 percent of foster care home children to do so.
Hamlin grew up homeless with his two drug addicted parents, getting by with donations from a woman who worked at the thrift shop next door.
At 13, Hamlin was placed into foster care and just a couple of months later, learned his mother had died from liver cancer and his father had since moved away.
"It was the first time I've ever felt cold inside, like my heart sunk and then just crying," he said.
Though his future looked bleak, Hamlin finished high school and discovered Cal Poly Pomona had a program called Renaissance Scholars, which helps foster kids graduate college.
He said his first year at Cal Poly, he "had long hair, dressed in black, and wouldn't talk to anyone."
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Hamlin eventually became friends with Sara Gamez, another foster kid who graduated from Cal Poly and was now mentoring other foster kids like Hamlin for the university. She said there is always a natural feeling of self-doubt in being a foster kid in college.
Gamez stayed with him as a mentor throughout college, cheering him on as he graduated college with Honors.
After he graduated, Hamlin had just one more person to thank -- the kind woman from the thrift stop who had given him donations so long ago.
"I heard you graduated! Oh my goodness, congratulations," the woman said, hugging Hamlin as they finally reunited.
Hamlin is now mentoring other foster children and helping his brother get through college.
He still has one photo of his mom, her mug shot, saved on his phone.
"There's no way, given all these barriers and hurdles and obstacles my brothers and I faced, that the day we are successful means nothing. It means something to her," he said.
Cal Poly's Renaissance Scholars Program has helped 66 former foster kids graduate from college. If you'd like to learn more, check out their website.