Princess Allen said she has buried her parents in her memory. Their household was one of drug addiction and domestic violence. When she was two years old, her father took her to live with his mother. She and her grandmother lived in the San Fernando Valley of California and her grandmother worked in downtown Los Angeles. “She took two buses. She never earned enough to own a home or a car or to take a vacation.”

Her grandmother died when she was eight, and Princess was sent into kinship foster care with her aunt, who mostly ignored her. Princess suffered from depression as a child, sometimes sitting alone in her room in the dark for hours. A therapist provided by children’s services agreed that she should not remain with her aunt.

At 10, she was placed in foster care with a single mother in Van Nuyes. “She had a big extended family, and I fit in. We went to church. I had friends. That’s when I learned about responsibility, doing chores, life skills.” A relative of her foster mother ran the phone bill up to the point the service was cut off. Because a working telephone was a requirement of being a foster home, Princess was moved to a home in Pasadena, again a single mother who kept two other foster children.

Princess “held everything in” and put her head into her books. “One of the reasons why I had to go to only two foster homes is because I did so well in school and didn’t cause problems.” She was an exceptional honors student, swam on the school team, and served as student body president. Almost no one knew her background or living situation. The exposure that came with the Beat the Odds® award in 2002 meant everyone suddenly found out. “I was really worried but everyone loved it. My life has never been the same since.”

Princess says going to the University of California at Berkley was not easy academically or socially as a “poor Black kid” going to an elite school. “I didn’t fit into any box anymore.” CDF kept in touch and invited her to conferences and symposiums. She went to a Young Advocate Leadership Training which fired up her passion for helping poor children. She began tutoring and mentoring in Oakland and got interested in public policy. She graduated in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric.

She went back to school in 2011 and served on the associate board of the KIPP Schools of Chicago. This spring, Princess graduated from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy with a master’s degree in public finance. This summer, she moved to California to work for Stifel Nicholaus in San Francisco, an investment banking company. She is a K-12 school district banker, structuring transactions for school bonds.

She intends to get involved again with children in San Francisco, maybe start an associate board of young professionals for the KIPP schools there to volunteer as mentors and tutors. “I feel so passionate about helping young people. I don’t want a child growing up in poverty or with a disadvantage. I want to help make their lives better.”