From trafficking victim to college dean’s list: Woman’s life transformed by charter school

OAKLAND — Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew spent her childhood bouncing from one foster home to another — 14 of them by the time she was 18. From age 10 to 17, she was sexually exploited by human traffickers in Oakland and spent her 17th birthday in juvenile hall.

After a traumatic upbringing, she enrolled in Civicorps, an Oakland charter school that transformed her life.

“It’s a place that accepts you and meets you where you’re at,” said Ortiz, now 28, who goes by T.  “I only started to find out who I was and the ways I liked to be treated when I went to the Corps.”

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