By the time Will Nash got to the Hart Community Homes (HCH) in Fullerton, California, he’d temporarily lived—and lost placement—in 19 foster and four group homes. Dealing with intense feelings of abandonment and anger in ways that caused those into whose care he’d been placed to label him “troublesome,” he was bounced from house to house. “You’re told you’re loved,” he says. “Then you get kicked out and you’re like, ‘Wait, I thought you loved me.’”
But at HCH, Nash landed among 11 other similarly hard-to-place boys aged 13 to 18, the older of whom—those eligible to work outside the house—were granted an opportunity rare among foster kids: after-school afternoons and weekends spent on a farm at nearby California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), tending crops alongside college students, faculty, and retired volunteers. It was a welcome new world of hands-on learning, camaraderie, and tentative belonging.