When she was 16, she lived at the Austin Children’s Center. There she realized she needed to get down on her knees and get serious.
“I realized I was going to get old soon and all I had was myself,” Allen said. “I knew I had to get to work and focus on college.”
With the help of her high school teachers, Allen was able to complete high school and enroll in Austin Community College in 2015. By the time she transferred to Texas State, she had only to complete four semesters to earn their undergraduate degree.
“It was really tough living in a shelter and trying to get into college,” Allen said. “But I was responsible for everything, and the support services I got from social workers and teachers made it easier.”
His support system included Eloise Hudson, the court in Allen appointed a special advocate for 12 to 16 years. Hudson stood up for Allen as she navigated between placements while attending school. She would also give Allen a sense of normalcy, taking her to activities and spending time with her.
“Honestly, I can’t believe how far she’s come in life, but it’s Ronika, who always proves she can do what she thinks,” Hudson said. “She received help, advice and support along the way, but she achieved so much because she made the decision that she wanted a better life for herself than what was available to her. “
Recently, Allen was invited to speak at a statewide conference for Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). A naturally shy person, Allen was nervous, but shared her story about her experiences in foster care and how CASA helped her.
In addition to CASA, Allen credits the Bexar County Fostering Educational Success (BCFES) program for helping her navigate the world of higher education.
“BCFES is the first place I go to if I need support,” she said.
Generously funded and supported by the Texas Legislature, BCFES is a UTSA-led collaboration with Texas A&M University-San Antonio, the Alamo College District, Bexar County Juvenile Court, and Child Advocates San Antonio . It serves as a national model for student success by developing programs and practices to guide students with homestay backgrounds through their higher education.
UTSA First Lady Peggy Eighmy initiated the program at UTSA and requested funding from the Legislature for BCFES. She is also a board member of Texas CASA and had the good fortune to hear Allen speak at the statewide conference.
“From the moment I met Ronika, I knew she was very special. Her enthusiasm for life, work ethic and intellectual curiosity were so evident. It was very generous of her to share her story in foster care, and I was very proud that she was a UTSA student,” said the First Lady of UTSA. Peggy Eighty. “Ronika is an inspiration and a shining example of how hard work and perseverance, regardless of the circumstances, can help young people achieve greatness.”
As Allen pursues her masters studies, she uses programs like BCFES and UTSA
Writing center while juggling a part-time job.
“I want to be successful,” Allen said. “Going to college is one of the ways I can do that, so I’m determined to finish.”