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From Foster Care To Physics Grad; UC Berkeley Scholar Beats Odds

by Christin Ayers and Jennifer Mistrot

(KPIX 5) -- It is graduation time and David Colby is celebrating. The 25-year-old University of California, Berkeley student is deeply grateful to be finished with school, and not just because he's earned a degree in physics from one of the most prestigious universities in the United States. As a young student, Colby was told by a social worker he would never experience this kind of success.

"[He said] I would only be able to go to community college and never a four-year university," recalled Colby. "I just want him to know that he was wrong."

LEARN MORE: Students Rising Above

The social worker was clearly wrong. David Colby and his big sister Lily are former foster kids. Colby also has autism and is brilliant. When KPIX first met him back in 2012, he was literally too smart for high school, acing his college level math courses. Both kids bounced around numerous foster homes, but Lily Colby never let her beloved little brother go, and along the way she became his protector and educational champion, seeing to it that he made it to Cal.

"Oh I brag about him all the time," said Lily Colby. "I brag about David all the time, that my little brother is at Berkeley studying physics. And I brag about how he got a 5 on the AP calculus test when he was in 8th grade."

And like any proud big sister, Lily was front and center at David's graduation. The ceremony was a full circle moment for her as well. Advocating for herself and David inspired Lily to become a lawyer and legislative advocate for children in the foster care system. Both siblings are former Students Rising Above scholars and both are quick to point out they would never have made it here without all the help they received from the organization.

"It's ... a whole community of people that allow you to see your future as a success," explained Lily.

David seconded his sister's praise.

"On a scale from one to ten, a ten," he said. "Because had it not been for SRA I would have never gone to Berkeley."

Lily Colby recently relocated to Sacramento so she can continue her advocacy work. David Colby is hoping to start a career in high tech.

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