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!

Joy AndersonJoyce 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.

Jeremy GarciaJeremy Garcia emancipated from Santa Clara County after almost ten years in foster care. He is struggling to find a career but will take any opportunity he can to advocate for his fellow foster youth. He is a founding member and youth staff of The Hub Drop-In Center in San Jose where he helps current and former foster youth get the resources they need for independence and success.

Mercedes KeeseeMercedes Keesee is an engaged, single mother of two. She was raised in kinship care, non-relative care and group homes. She is currently a full-time mother.

Elias LopezElias Lopez emancipated from Sacramento County. He is currently working towards his bachelor’s degree in business and marketing. Aside from schoolwork, he is involved with many advocacy groups and has trained both youth and professionals on leadership and personal development. He enjoys traveling and learning from the many adventures that come his way.

Deja PackardDeja 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.

Michael PlaceMichael Place is a foster care practice and policy reformer who believes every child should have a fair chance at becoming a victor instead of a victim. He is 23 years old and has been advocating for his community for over eight years. He recently began his journey to complete his Masters of Education in Leadership and Change at Antioch University in Los Angeles.

Onikah PorterOnikah 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 RiveraSuamhirs 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 RobertsonBrianna “Princess” Robertson is 21 years old. She works for CASA’s Youth Speakers Bureau and the Y.O.U.T.H. Training Project. She is very passionate about being able to be a voice for foster youth. Brianna is a full-time student at San Francisco State University working towards a Child Development degree with a minor in Child Worker. She is also a proud new mommy

Ruby Louise RosasRuby Louise Rosas entered foster care as a baby but was eventually placed in kinship care with her grandmother. Ruby received her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Fashion Merchandising from The Academy of Art University. She works as a personal stylist in San Francisco. Ruby has been involved with California Youth Connection and the Y.O.U.T.H. Training Project for over three years. She aspires to get the voices and perspectives of foster youth heard.

Damond SladenDamond 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.

Helen WeaverHelen 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.

Talitha JamesTalitha James is a 20-year old youth who emancipated from L.A. County and now resides in Orange County. Currently, she is a Human Service major at Cal State Fullerton. Her goal in life is to inspire change just as her social worker did for her. She would like to become a social worker once she graduates. In the meantime, she is active in her church as a praise dancer, teaches Bible study and is in Big Love with the Lord!

Sophia HermanSophia Herman is 24 years old. She spent 15 years in San Diego County Foster Care. Sophia attends San Diego State University majoring in Journalism and Psychology. Sophia’s goal is to remain an advocate for the underserved population.

Z ArataZ Arata is 18 years old. She was adopted at 10 months and put in the system by 11 years of age. She is from Ventura County and works at Casa Pacifica, a residential treatment center for foster and probation youth. In January 2019, she will be attending community college to begin her work towards a social work degree.

Olivia VillarrealOlivia Villarreal is a 20-year old student at Bakersfield College. She wants to start her own non-profit for foster youth focusing on homeless shelters for youth ages 18-24, traditional housing and much more in her community.

Nicole HudleyNicole Hudley entered care at the age of 14 in Contra Costa County. Nicole is an Alameda County CYC member currently working for Honoring Emancipated Youth. She graduated Mills College with a Masters in Public Policy.

Joshua NewellJoshua Newell is 20 years old. Joshua was raised in foster care in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. He is currently attending American River College in Sacramento. He is working to become a child psychologist. In his free time, Joshua likes to sing and dance—both of which he does pretty well.

Susan ManziSusan Manzi is a survivor! Her experiences have empowered her to make radical shifts in the system. Much of her advocacy started in Humboldt County, where Susan has been an active part of many boards and committees; including co-chairing the TAY implementation team for Prop 63, and her local CYC Chapter for three years. She has been heavily involved in Family 2 Family and CPYP initiatives, as well as the new pilot project, Emancipated Youth Project. The EYP found her biological family on her maternal side, in which she has been developing a larger spectrum to her “family” since February of 2007. Susan plans to make history on the front lines of progressive change in not just the foster care and mental health systems, but systems and society in general! Susan has recently relocated to Santa Cruz to start a new chapter of her life and be closer to her biological family and political causes.

Zairon FrazierZairon Frazier is a former foster youth from Alameda County. He attended Chabot Community College, with a focus on theatre arts. In the fall of 2019, he transferred to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, to pursue a degree in social work. Zairon entered care at the age of 14, where he witnessed a lot of foster youth injustices. He overcame obstacles that no youth should have to live through. Ever since the age of 16, he has thrived on improving the foster care system through policy change and Youth Advocacy with the California Youth Connection.

Monique RandolphMonique Randolph entered the foster care system at the tender age of 3, and remained in care until emancipating at the age of 18. She became involved with the California Youth Connection at the age of 13, and has been advocating for foster youth ever since. She recently graduated from UCLA with a degree in psychology. She works as an Academic Coach at a nonprofit agency and as a Child Care Worker at a group home in South Central Los Angeles. Her passions include traveling and working with disadvantaged and troubled youth. She plans on becoming a children’s clinical psychologist so she can work with all the misdiagnosed youth in the foster care system.