By all accounts, Kimberly Snodgrass, an honors student majoring in social sciences, should not be where she is today. For the first 10 years of her life, she was virtually homeless as her alcoholic, drug-addicted mother shuffled her and her four siblings between motel rooms, shelters and, ultimately, foster care. Her prospects for a successful future seemed bleak.

“I can remember being left to care for my younger brother and sister for days at a time. That’s how I learned to cook for my siblings,” Snodgrass says. “I never attended school for more than two weeks at a time because we were always on the run to the next place to sleep.”

That all changed when she was 11 and placed with the Snodgrass family, along with her two younger siblings. Through the help of Orangewood Children’s Home in Orange, they joined the couple’s four children and two other foster children, all of whom the couple adopted five years later.

With a stable home life and extra help from her teachers, Snodgrass caught up academically with her peers, graduating from high school with honors. She also played in the school band, all while working to pay for her own car and other “necessities” of a typical teenager.

Now in her third year at UCI, she has written and illustrated a children’s book titled, I Am a Foster Child, I Have Feelings, Too. While not yet published – she’s still raising funds to pay for the first printing – the book is geared toward young children who have been removed from their parents and placed in foster care.

“I wanted to help these kids better understand and accept the wide range of emotions and feelings they can expect to have,” she says. For the older reader, Snodgrass also has written a short autobiography, This Is My Life, to be published this summer by Publish America.

In addition to her writing and studies, Snodgrass works as a teaching assistant at UCI and at the Early Childhood Learning Center, and she’s an intern with Orangewood’s CEO. She participates in Global Connect and the Community Service Leadership Program, two social sciences programs she says allow her to give back to the community while preparing her for a career in public service. She also has participated in the social sciences’ five-week, research-intensive Summer Academic Enrichment Program.

“Kim is the type of person who takes full advantage of the opportunities presented to her,” says Caesar Sereseres, associate dean of undergraduate studies in social sciences and an active leader and instructor with SAEP. “She is creative in terms of herself and her ambitions and has a positive outlook on life.”

With her recent acceptance to Princeton University’s competitive Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute program, Snodgrass will spend the upcoming summer months pursuing in-depth research on a topic close to her heart – the national foster care system.

“I stand today with many opportunities because people believed in me. I would have never made it this far without a strong team of supporters, including my family, reliable friends, my supportive boyfriend, caring professors at UCI and Orangewood Guardian Scholars (a program that helps former foster children pursue a college education),” Snodgrass says. “While we cannot pull painful memories from our past, we can push for our future.”