Heroes Among Us

Roy and Claudia Asprer Help Their Foster Kids Get an Education

01/09/2014 at 01:30 PM EST

Roy and Claudia Asprer Help Their Foster Kids Get an Education
From left: Katie Weinberg, Kleidy Santos and Lulu Davila with their foster parents, Roy and Claudia Asprer
Winni Wintermeyer
Claudia Asprer was working at a teen health clinic as a physician's assistant in 1997 when she met and bonded with Marjorie, a 14-year-old girl from a local homeless shelter.

"Everyone in her life had pretty much given up on her," says Asprer, who was just 26 back then.

Marjorie eventually asked Claudia and her husband, Roy, to take her in as a foster child.

"I wanted them to be my parents," says Marjorie, now 30. "And I wanted some stability. I was skipping school. I had a 0.85 GPA."

Even Marjorie's social worker told Claudia it was a bad idea.

"She told me that Marjorie wasn't going to amount to anything," says Claudia, "that she'd end up pregnant by the time she was 15."

But Claudia, now 42, and her husband Rob, 51, who is in the military, threw caution to the wind and took Marjorie in. Since then, more than 90 foster children have passed through the doors of their Novato, Calif., home.

In 2010, the Asprer's formed Movin' On Up, a nonprofit that helps foster kids finish high school and go on to college.

With only a small fraction of foster teens nationwide earning degrees, the Asprers are helping their foster kids buck that trend.

Of the 12 teens who spent their high school years with the couple (the other 78 kids were either younger, didn't stay very long or were reunited with their families), all are either currently in college or have graduated.

The secret to their success is simple, says Roy.

"You believe in them – that's the key thing," he says.

The Asprers' combination of discipline and love worked beautifully for Andrea Reginster, 28, who went on to get both a bachelor's and master's in psychology and is now working on her PhD.

"They turned the dining room table and living room into a homework station," she says "and we'd spend hours there."

If they didn't get a good report card, they were grounded on the weekends.

"It was a tough environment," she says, "but we needed the love and support."

As for Marjorie, she not only graduated from high school, she went on to graduate from Dominican University of California with a BA in humanities and a minor in Latin American studies.

"I have found my forever family in Claudia and Roy," she says.



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