Being born with cerebral palsy (and wheelchair bound) does not stop Dejulaira (“DJ”) Lopez.

Now 20 years old, she has endured many hardships but has also overcome many obstacles. When she was two, DJ was separated from her parents and family, except for one brother. She was in and out of seven foster homes. She recalls, “Some of the foster homes were supportive—but in some homes I suffered from verbal, physical and sexual abuse. I felt like I was in a black hole and no one was hearing me.” That was 2008. She was only 14.

Then she came to JCCA’s Bridges to Health program, which provides a range of specialized services for foster children. JCCA’s social workers enabled her get a home health aide to help her learn to take care of herself. They arranged for a specialist to help her be more independent and learn to cook and clean, and they encouraged her to go to school. She recalls, “I had been in and out of so many agencies, I lost trust in them. At JCCA I learned to trust again. Going to JCCA’s Bridges to Health was the turning point in my life.”

Today this extraordinarily resilient, resourceful, optimistic, strong, articulate young woman is living independently in her own home for the first time in her life. She is studying psychology and poetry at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. She adds, “I don’t think I’d be here if it weren’t for JCCA.”

DJ is very optimistic about her future. “I have overcome my past struggles and believe I will achieve my goals for the future. I want to write a book to help other people realize their dreams too.”