Most students go through the same daily routine: school, after-school activities, homework, dinner and bed. But for senior Diane Strain, high school has been anything but ordinary—or consistent.
At the age of 10, Diane moved out of her biological mother’s home due to a rocky and somewhat dangerous living situation.
“My mother was not the best parent,” Diane said. “We had some problems with her boyfriends and their abuse towards me and my siblings.”
From then on, she was a wanderer, “couch-hopping” and moving between different family members’ homes. Finally, she settled in with her godparents, Dante and Tiffany Watts. Supportive parent figures, the Watts family offered Diane the shelter and comfort she needed to get back on her feet.
“They are like the real parents I never had,” Diane said. “I love them for all they have done for me, for helping me with school and my life growing up.”
Diane entered high school and flourished, involving herself in track, Ambassadors and the Black Student Union (BSU). She developed close relationships with friends and faculty members. Yet just when she had begun to fit in, there was more trouble at home: Her godparents had bought a home in Stockton and wanted her to move there.
“I didn’t want to leave Los Altos High,” Diane said. “So while my godparents were getting everything [ready] with our new home, I continued to live [alone] in our apartment in Mountain View.”
Living alone worked well for a while. Yet as Diane tried to find a job and apply to colleges in her senior year, she realized she needed adult mentorship and turned to faculty members.
“She came to me for a couple of schedule changes, and our friendship grew out of that,” Assistant Principal Morenike O’Neal said. “I took a special interest in her because she seemed like a cool kid [that was] going through a lot.”
O’Neal informed Diane that according to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Act, a California State Law, she was officially homeless. While it may have seemed like bad news, being homeless made Diane “independent” and eligible for “a lot more scholarships and federal funding for school.” With the help of College Career Center Coordinator Kristin Joseph, O’Neal and Diane filled out the Free Application for Financial Student Aid forms together and Diane ultimately received money.
Now Diane feels settled and is looking ahead. She plans to attend Sacramento State University in the fall, where she will “live on campus and just take life one day at a time.” She is thankful to “God, [AVID and English teacher Michael] Smith, Ms. O’Neal and everyone who has just took their own time to listen to [her] problems.”
It is because of her commitment and determination that Diane was able to reach her goals. Her mentors are proud of her success.
“I think she is an amazing student,” O’Neal said. “She’s had a lot of opportunities where she could have given up … but didn’t.”
Diane advises anyone having issues with schoolwork, family or friends to “let it out and talk to anyone who wants to listen.”
O’Neal agrees, and adds that there are always people and resources on campus who can offer help.
“Keep your head up,” O’Neal said. “There are lots of resources out there available for students who are struggling. Don’t give up, because you can make it. There is no reason to ever give up on your dream.”