We are a proud project of California Youth Connection.
We inspire young people to transform the systems of care that affect their lives, and we affirm and reignite the compassion and passion of youth-serving professionals. Read more
Meet Our Y.O.U.T.H. Trainers!
Each year we recruit a fresh group of Y.O.U.T.H. trainers. At any given time, we have a mix of both new and seasoned trainers, ranging in age from 16 to 24. To date, we have trained 120 youth, who have reached 6,700 child welfare professionals!
Joyce Anderson was placed in foster care in 2002 with her younger sister. She works for Project WHAT, a youth-led project that assists children of incarcerated parents. She plans to go to UC Santa Cruz after she graduates high school in 2009, and on to become a social worker, helping foster youth around the world discover their strengths, and encouraging their success. After she turns 18, Joyce plans to be adopted into the family she and her sister have been with for over two years.
Dionisia "Dio" Baca is a former foster youth from Stockton. She entered foster care at the age of 13, only to be returned 6 months later. After being reunited with her mother, she returned to foster care at the age of 15. At the age of 18, she emancipated from foster care and now attends San Joaquin Delta Jr. College. She plans to attend University of the Pacific after attaining her Associate (AA) degree.
Celeste Osborne was born into the system and adopted in 1997. In her adoptive placement, she was treated like a foster youth, so she considers herself one. She is currently attending Victor Valley College, where she is majoring in Social Work. She is also an active member of the San Bernardino County chapter of the California Youth Connection.
Katheleen "Kat" Curameng is a former foster youth from Orange County. She was a Guardian Scholar recipient at Cal State University Fullerton and received her Bachelor’s in Health Science. She currently works in the medical field while pursuing her Masters in Nursing, and hopes to work with foster youth focusing on health. She believes that beneath the chaotic surface of all things, we can always find peace within ourselves.
Jeremy Garcia grew up in the foster care system since the age of eight. Despite his many struggles, he has been able to stay focused and work on his goals, especially advocating for foster youth. He is president of the Santa Clara County Youth Advisory Board, a founding member of the Santa Clara Independent Living Skills Program Youth Drop-In Center, and a dedicated advocate for foster youth issues whenever the opportunity arises.
Talitha James is an emancipated youth from L.A. County, now residing in Orange County. Currently, she majors in Human Services at Cal State Fullerton. Her goal in life is to inspire change just as her social worker did for her, and her goal after graduation is to become a social worker. In the meantime, she is active in her church as a praise dancer, teaches Bible study, and is in Big Love with the Lord!
Mercedes Keesee was raised in kinship care, non-relative foster homes, and group homes in Kern County. She plans to go to college, and hopes to become a probation officer. She is mothering a newborn and has recently married.
Joe Lau is an emancipated youth who entered the foster care system at 15 and had three placements. He joined California Youth Connection in 2004 and got connected with other youth organizations. He wants to devote his time to youth movements and changing the systems currently in place.
Matthew Lopez is 22 years old and has emancipated from Sacramento County. He works for the California State Ombudsman for Foster Care and is active in the California Youth Connection. In addition to pursuing his degree, he is working on different projects that equip and develop youth, both in and out of foster care. He speaks throughout California about student leadership, personal development, goal setting, and more.
Adam J.D. Luna entered the foster care system when he was in the 8th grade. Originally from the Santa Barbara/Ventura area, Adam transferred from San Francisco City College to San Francisco State University and is a part of the Guardian Scholars Program. He is working towards a Ph.D. in Communications, and is living proof that former foster youth have the ability to succeed personally, academically, and professionally.
Joshua Newell was raised in foster care in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. He is currently attending American River College in Sacramento and working to become a child psychologist. In his free time, Joshua likes to sing and dance—both of which he does pretty well.
Withelma “T” Ortiz-Macey has a high school diploma and some college experience under her belt and plans on going into the Communications and Social Work fields so she can continue the critical advocacy work she is so passionate about. T plans on using her time in YTP not only to heal, but to develop skills to further advocate for foster youth and sexually exploited minors, as well as to advance her dream of starting her own non-profit. T joined YTP so she could use her experience in foster care to reform social services and the negative perspective and biases toward foster youth. Never one to refrain from speaking her mind, T is fueled by the powerful changes she can make in her work at YTP.
Deja Packard is 22 years old, attending Chabot College in Hayward, CA, and planning to transfer back to California State University, East Bay this year. She is majoring in Biology and her career goal is to become a Pediatric Doctor.
Onikah Porter is a former foster youth from Riverside County. She is currently a third-year Guardian Scholar at Cal State Fullerton, where she majors in History. Onikah is employed at Orangewood Children’s Foundation and Orange County Department of Education, where she hopes to foster change in the foster care system.
Suamhirs Rivera is a foster youth from San Diego. He entered care at 16 and emancipated three years later. Suamhirs attends San Diego City College and works full time at Casa Cornelius Law Center. Suamhirs is also a volunteer speaker with Voices for Children, and hopes to pursue a career as an attorney for unaccompanied immigrant minors.
Brianna “Princess” Robertson is a current foster youth. She is working on obtaining her GED and lives in the Bay Area Youth Center Transitional Housing Program in Alameda County. Princess finds pride and joy being a mother to her son and through her membership in California Youth Connection. As a new Youth Trainer, she is excited to be a part of deepening change in the foster care system.
Ruby Louise Rosas was raised in kinship care throughout her life. At the young age of ten, both of her parents died and her grandmother became legal guardian for Ruby and her older siblings. Ruby is a dedicated member of the California Youth Connection in both San Francisco and Santa Clara. She attends the Academy of Art University, studying for a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Merchandising.
Damond Sladen is the youngest of six kids raised in Newark, California. He graduated from Newark Memorial High School, and now attends Ohlone College. He plans to be an English teacher.
Maggie Tuazon has been living on her own since May 2006. She entered the foster care system at 15, and lived in eight different group homes. She attends the University of Alaska in Anchorage and plans to transfer to UC Berkeley.
Helen Weaver entered foster care in Humboldt County when she was 15 and emancipated at 18. She is currently a student at College of the Redwoods, participating in the Honors Program, heading up the Honors Advisory Board, and serving as President of the Bridge-way Club. Majoring in Business Administration and Economics, she hopes to transfer to UC Berkeley. She is committed to promoting social justice throughout her life.