A newly-elected student leader at San Diego State University knows all about overcoming adversity. In fact, at one point in his young life, he was homeless.
SDSU junior Josh Morse, 21, has just been elected student body president.
Morse’s presidential term officially begins on May 1, but 10 years ago the finance major says he could’ve never imagined his life would one day lead him to this role as a leader.
Morse, who grew up in San Diego, admits his childhood was extremely difficult.
His father abandoned his family when Morse was just five years old and his mother struggled with substance abuse and arrests.
At one point, Morse says he and his mother and sisters were homeless, living out of a car and in a tent on a canyon.
At age 11, Morse says he took it upon himself to run away because his mother simply could not provide for him. He packed up his skateboard and stayed with friends and distant relatives until a local foster family took him under their wing.
“My uncle reached out to some friends in Ocean Beach – the Klein family – and asked if I could stay with them for a weekend. That weekend turned into seven years and a family,” explained Morse. “They gave me a sense of stability I had never had before and changed my life.”
Morse says things began to turn around for him as a teenager. He vowed to stay in school, no matter the obstacles, and better himself through education.
“There was a point in my life where I had the option to either sink or swim. I knew at a young age that I wanted to stay in school, that school was literally the key to my success,” Morse told NBC 7.
Morse went on to attend Point Loma High School. Eventually, he enrolled at SDSU through the school’s Guardian Scholars Program, which assists incoming freshmen and transfer students previously in the foster care system with housing and scholarship opportunities.
Through the program, Morse was granted scholarships that have helped him cover the cost of his schooling.
In turn, Morse became highly involved with a wide variety of student groups and affairs on campus including the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, the Peer Leadership Consultants Program, the SDSU Surf Club and Associated Students.
He also became a student representative for the Guardian Scholars Program, helping to raise awareness of issues faced by foster youth exiting the system and entering college.
Today, after a couple of years of dedicated on-campus involvement, Morse has been elected student body president and can’t wait to use his life experiences to advocate for his fellow students.
“I want to make sure students are understood and heard, and are being represented,” said Morse. “It’s an honor to be president here at SDSU.”
In his new leadership role, Morse says he plans to do everything he can to build up the campus and unite students.
Morse says the hardships he experienced as a child were tough, but ultimately taught him responsibility, compassion and determination. He says those experiences shaped him into the man he is today.
“When [the Klein family] reached out to me when I needed it most, it meant the world to me. I have a lot of compassion for others and want to pay it forward,” Morse added.
The Aztec's success story doesn’t end here.
Morse is heading into his senior year at SDSU this fall and is also enrolled in a pre-law program at UCLA. After his 2014 graduation from SDSU, he plans to pursue his master's degree in public policy at the UCLA School of Law.
“My end goal is to impact as many lives as I can, give back to my community and help others. Without the help I received I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he said.