Cierra Gunderson

Last updated: 2016

Cierra Gunderson

2016 Beat the Odds Honoree

Cierra Gunderson's story is one of perseverance and growth. By age 10, Cierra lost her stepfather in a drive-by shooting. She then lost her mother in a fatal car accident. Cierra and her younger brother survived the accident but sadly it left him paralyzed from the waist down. Displaced from her family, she went to live with her legal guardian, who she affectionately calls "grandma;" who ironically, was also her mother's foster mom.

Cierra's life has spun in many directions bringing challenges that have helped shape her character and taught her never to give up. Cierra is very close to her brother; she takes pride in helping with his daily needs and activities. She supports his love for sports and has encouraged him to become a member of several paraplegic sports teams. Understanding that she has been through a lot of trauma, Cierra is also taking care of herself, accepting emotional support from a school social worker, working hard to get good grades in school and applying for various jobs and internships.

Cierra, now a senior, is active in several sports and is the treasurer and secretary for California Youth Connection (CYC), a nonprofit that advocates for policy and legislative changes in the California Foster Care and Juvenile Justice Systems. Through her participation in education and community-based programs, Cierra travels across California and beyond, speaking with youth adults and legislators advocating for much-needed change in the foster care system. Cierra looks forward to one day becoming a social worker and working with military children and families.