If there’s one characteristic you could use to describe Ohioan Jeremy Collier, it's that he’s always been on the move. He spent his youth jumping from home to home in the foster care system, and was homeless when he turned 18.
Jeremy refused to let any social stigmas determine his future, though, and he used his challenges to drive his dreams of college, family and having a successful career.
“I had to learn to rely on myself a great deal in life,” said Jeremy. "But I kept motivated by the dream that if I finished high school, I could go to college, and I knew that would be key to obtaining something else in my life."
Jeremy developed his value for education organically when there were no role models or family members to initiate that for him. Rather, when he identified that school was the place in his life where he thrived, he developed the confidence that eventually, he would earn his college degree regardless of the incredible odds stacked against him.
According to the National Foster Youth Institute, only about half of youth raised in foster care in the U.S. end up finishing high school, and less than 3 percent graduate from a 4-year college. Jeremy did it, though, with his relentless focus on his goals and by finally receiving the support he needed.
"After my freshman year, I had to transfer out because of the costs," said Jeremy, who needed his dorm room as home year round. But his future in-laws took him in and rallied him to success.
"I don't know where I'd be if they didn't support me in that time," said Jeremy. "I don't know that I would've made it without them."
After Jeremy went to work as a financial auditor, he saw that a master's degree would further help him grow his career and income. But with a new family of his own, he thought he'd have to put that dream off for a while, until he spotted the right opportunity at the right time.
“Enjoy your life, and whatever your experiences, positive or negative, ask yourself, 'What am I getting out of this?'" Jeremy Collier
His employer offered him tuition assistance, and with a scholarship from Western Governors University (WGU), he earned his master's degree in seven months.
“The competency-based learning model helped me move through the program much faster than I thought I would, and position myself for a greater role at work,” he said.
Not only did he beat the odds when he finished high school and graduated from college, obtaining his MBA helped him achieve his career goals. Now Jeremy manages all of the finances across the board as a senior internal auditor for Anthem, Inc. in Mason, Ohio.
Jeremy is not resting on his accomplishments, though. He's now looking at opportunities to help change the laws and statistics associated with foster care and create an impact for generations to come.
"I want others to know that their experience in foster care doesn't have to define their futures," said Jeremy. "I want those living with societal stigmas to know that they can use it as fuel to change those peoples’ minds. They can say, ‘Hey, you might think that now, but you're not going to think that tomorrow when I show you why not.'”
Above all, he aims to spread a message of positivity and encouragement to all foster kids and others living with social stigmas.
“Enjoy your life, and whatever your experiences, positive or negative, ask yourself, 'What am I getting out of this?' Then take the experiences and remind yourself everyday where it is you want to go, and you'll find a way to do it," he said.