SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A former San Diego foster youth will be graduating from college in December. It's something he never dreamed he could do until he met his mentor.
Clifton said meeting Amanda was life-changing and their story illustrates that adoption isn't the only way you can make a difference in a foster child's life.
“She's family. I literally tell her all the time, I would take a bullet for her any day. Without her I don't know where I would be, I probably wouldn't be alive,” said Clifton.
They've known each other for about a decade. Amanda was in her mid-20's when they first met. Clifton was just 13 and living in foster care.
“My life was a roller coaster. I was a very, how do I say explosive kid,” said Clifton.
Clifton first noticed Amanda at a football game.
“My best friend played football my freshman year of high school and I realized she was always at his games, and I was like, ‘who's this lady, why is she here for him,” Clifton explained.
He learned Amanda was a mentor to his friend Jesus.
“So to see her come out of her way with a sign that says his name on it, supporting him, that's what I wanted. I didn't have that,” said Clifton.
Amanda agreed to be Clifton's mentor and eventually his twin sister's mentor as well. Amanda has been cheering them on through life ever since - by their side at every major milestone these past 10 years.
“Whether it's good or bad, she tells me what I want to hear and tells me what I don't want to hear. I know at the end of the day she's going to be real with me,” added Clifton.
Amanda is humbled and said Clifton's determination and resilience has inspired her.
“As a mentor, you don't realize the impact they're going to have on you. You're making a difference in their lives, but they're making just as big of an impact on you,” said Amanda.
Amanda, who works in residential group homes and whose father was a social worker, has mentored seven kids through the years and still keeps in touch with each one.
She says it's the basic things most of us take for granted, that help foster kids succeed.
“It's little things, going to the grocery store, how do you get car insurance, or what's it going to cost. They don't have that, especially if they're in a group home or treatment center,” said Amanda.
“A lot of it was just learning independent living skills, learning how to shop, learning how to get my own bank account, even going to a college library for the first time, which to me, this is humongous,” explained Clifton.
The impact Amanda has made is priceless with her guidance, Clifton got a full ride scholarship to Ashford University in Iowa. She then kept him from dropping out his freshman year.
“The whole time I'm texting her, ‘I don't want to be here, this isn't for me, I stand out, nobody likes me, nobody really understands me,’” said Clifton.
Nobody, but Amanda, who knew just what to say.
“She literally was like no, this is easy, you have this, you've done a lot more than this, you can do it, you're making it bigger than it is. You've gone through so much, why let this defeat you,” said Clifton.
Clifton, who's now 24, will graduate from college in December. He's working in San Diego this summer with underprivileged youth. His next goal? To get his MBA and create an academy for children facing the same hardships he has overcome.
“A lot of kids use sports as an escape or a vessel or vehicle to move and be successful, so why not give those kids that don't have the money for it a chance, a fighting chance because they don't really have it,” added Clifton.
If you'd like to learn more about San Diego County's Foster Youth Mentor Program, please call 619-767-5222.
Approximately 90 children are on the waiting list - about 50 boys and 40 girls.
If you are interested in adopting or becoming a foster family, please call 1-877-I-ADOPT-U.