May 3, 2013
Coriah Welch has about 20 colleges to choose from after she graduates. But the decision is a difficult one. For the last few years, Welch has been raising three of her four half-brothers in their foster home in South Los Angeles, and she's afraid to leave them. For our new series "Graduation Day," budding reporters from USC Annenberg's School of Communication and Journalism were assigned to profile high school students counting down the days until graduation. Reporter: Aaron Schrank
The morning bell at her high school has already rung, but Coriah Welch is still at home.
She's busy getting three little boys ready for school.
"I have to wake up very early in the morning," she says. "I have to pick out three outfits and comb three full heads of hair and make three meals a day. That's why most of the time I'm late for school, if I'm not up early enough. Then when I come home, it's the same. I do everything over and put them to bed."
It sounds like a lot of work, and it is. Coriah is 17. She and three of her four half-brothers are living in a foster home in South Los Angeles. She's not just their big sister, but also their protector.
"We kind of have the same name," Coriah says. "My name's Coriah, and then there's Cordel Jr., Cortlenn, Cortez-Dubois and Coreon. They're 4, 3, 2 and 1, back to back. They're really good kids, those are my babies."
Coriah is currently a senior at a high school in South Los Angeles, formerly known as South Central. It's the seventh one she's been to, thanks to bouncing around in the foster care system with her brothers. She has applied to more than 70 universities. She wants to go into politics and work to help foster kids. But first, she needs to decide on a college.
Coriah attended Foshay Learning Center for most of her senior year. She spent almost every lunch period sitting in the office of academic counselor Renysha Scott, talking college options. Her biggest worry: moving to another state and leaving her brothers behind.
"Her heart is not going to allow her to leave if she doesn't feel like they're secure," Scott says. "I think a huge part of it has to do with what happens with them between now and the time she gets ready to actually attend somewhere. I think she is very tenacious, so I really feel like whatever she wants to achieve, she'll absolutely get there."
Coriah wasn't always a foster kid. Her mother hasn't been in her life since she can remember, but she and her brothers lived with her father until two years ago. After a domestic dispute between her dad and the boys' mother, the kids were separated, sent to foster homes all over Los Angeles.
"I would think every day like, 'Are they eating OK? Are they bathing every day? Can they sleep at night?' Coriah says. "Because I wasn't sleeping at night. Sometimes, I thought in my head like, 'How could my mom not feel like this when I'm away? How does a mother not feel this?"
Coriah fought to get her family back together. She spent a lot of time on the phone with the Department of Children and Family Services and the lawyers representing her brothers.
"Every day, they got a call from me," she said. "I was bugging them."
After months of calling, Coriah got herself and three of her brothers into a foster home with a family friend. The fourth brother went to Coriah's grandmother. It's not a perfect situation, but the kids are pretty much together. Every Sunday, they spend the day at their grandmother's, hanging out and playing video games.