ITT: Turning a Painful Past into a Bright Future
Some studies have shown that repeated moves in childhood adversely affect one’s well-being as an adult. Those researchers haven’t met Angel Carroll.
In a four-year span as a teenager, the 22-year-old Texas Tech student lived in 20 different places across the state, the result of going into foster care when she was 15. Now, she’s a confident and articulate young woman who plans to make her mark in social work.
“I’ve been told so many times what I can and cannot do in my past and I feel like my past does define me and in a way,” Carroll said. “I don’t want to be defined by that solely, but I know that I will. So I’m just taking it and using it for the best.”
Carroll, who will be a senior this fall, is clearly defying the odds. College had always been a goal but she’s had to overcome a lot along the way. Her stepfather was killed while serving in Iraq when she was in fifth grade. And her mother, who suffers with a variety of mental health issues, sent Carroll into foster care after realizing she could no longer adequately care for her.
“I’d say my personality is, is if I see something wrong I want to fix it. I’m not the type to just sit back and mope around,” she said. “I’m going to go for it. That’s why I’ve always had college on my mind. Even when I first went into the foster care system and graduating high school didn’t even look like that was going to be an option for me.”
Carroll has realized there’s nothing to be gained by hanging on to the pain from her mother’s rejection. Through her experience in foster care and conversations with others there, Carroll has gained perspective.
“It was really rough for me but one of the cool things and crazy things that came out of that is I still talk to my mom. I still have a relationship with her. Even though it felt really crappy at the time, I met kids and became friends with kids who had far worse situations.”
Getting to where she is now hasn’t come without its challenges. In her first year in the foster system, Carroll lived in 12 different homes or shelters. Her second year that number was eight. But the constant moving around made it difficult to complete classroom work that would have earned her credit toward graduation. When she was 17, Carroll was still a freshman.
So how did she graduate? “Credit by exam,” she explained. “You go in and take this test. If you pass the test you got your credit.”
Carroll chose to remain in foster care after graduating in 2012 from New Braunfels High School – something one is permitted to do until they turn 21. She attended Austin Community College in spring 2014, then took some classes at UT –Austin before returning to ACC. She transferred to Tech in June 2016 and is slated to graduate next May.
Like her mother, Carroll says she suffers from depression. But that in no way will define her and her future. She often turns to a favorite quote – from Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones. “Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like an armor and it can never be used to hurt you.”
After graduation, Carroll plans to get a master’s degree and hopes to work legislatively at the state level to help improve Texas’ foster care system.
She says she’ll never forget what she’s gained at Texas Tech and will always be a Red Raider. “I feel like no matter where I go, if I needed help, I’d be able to get it.”