Alex Ballantyne was born into a bi-racial Latino family struggling with addiction and untreated mental health issues in Los Angeles. At five years old, he was placed in foster care with his grandmother, and a few years later he was removed from her home and placed with strangers. This began a destabilizing series of foster placements throughout his teenage years.

The summer before entering high school, Alex was accepted into the First Star Bruin Guardian Scholars Academy, a highly competitive college prep program for foster youth, sponsored by UCLA. During high school, Alex became a dedicated member of his school band, expertly playing multiple low brass instruments. He received many music awards from his school as well as from the Marine Corps Band. He went on to tour nationally with the Sacramento Mandarins Drum Corps during his senior year.

Just after his high school graduation, Alex became homeless. Following a year of struggle, he entered a transitional housing program for former foster youth and was able to begin college–a huge achievement when only 3% of American young people in foster care receive bachelor’s degrees. He is currently majoring in business at Pasadena City College and works in the college’s IT department. He hopes to transfer to UC Berkeley after completing his AA degree.