Valery Swope has every reason to celebrate. The 18-year-old Philadelphia foster youth came out of a doomed childhood and will soon head to Cabrini College, against all odds.
"I feel so great. Oh, my Lord. I've got to tell everybody!" she said, recounting her excitement over her college admission to Philly.com
Swope attended four high schools in four years, and the foster system shuffled her between countless homes of every kind. She lived with relatives, foster care strangers, institutions, group homes, on her own, and briefly with her birth mother, according to Philly.com.
At age 15, Swope reportedly lived under the control of of men who exploited her; the men are now behind bars, thanks in part to Swope.
When she was a baby, police officer Robert Varley, pictured above, found Swopes wrapped in plastic and left to die in an abandoned Philadelphia building. She was in bad shape, but Varley brought her to a local hospital, where nurses saved her and named her “Valery” after her rescuer.
"You brought tears to my eyes, from point one all the way till now," Varley told Swopes at a recent reunion.
Varley,who is about to retire, told Philly.com that seeing Swopes again, and knowing that she had been accepted into college, was the perfect ending to his career.
Swopes will have to borrow $9,500 in loans to cover the difference of $40,000 price tag for tuition, room and board. Grants and scholarships will pay for the rest, but Swopes is optimistic.
"I'm not really thinking about it," Swopes told Philly.com about her debt. "I just want to go to Cabrini."
Less than 3 percent of all foster youth go to college, according to Children Uniting Nations. Even though foster youth make up only 0.3 percent of the population, 40 percent of people living in homeless shelters are former foster children, and 51 percent of former foster youth are unemployed.
Despite the odds, Swopes made it out of the foster system, earning the opportunity to start fresh. She hopes that sharing her story will inspire others not to give up, she told Philly.com.
"I want people to read my story and say: 'Wow, she can still do it. Maybe I can do it, too,'" Swopes said.