Dedicated YLAT alumni may co-facilitate district YLAT meetings. Alumni co-facilitators are identified as community leaders and serve as role models for YLAT youth, encourage positive relationships between group members, and foster an environment that promotes learning.
<strong>Stephanie Gerard – </strong>Stephanie first became connected to YLAT presenting on panels concerning youth permanency and involvement with the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, in which she was a Jim Casey fellow in 2013. Stephanie continues with this work because she was a youth in care and feels like she can be someone who other youth can look up to. She believes that “if we can save each other from the struggles we’ve been through, then maybe the child welfare system might be a little easier to get through”. Stephanie thinks each person’s story of being in foster care can benefit others and produce better outcomes for everyone. Currently, while working full-time in the emergency room, Stephanie will be certified as an EMT in December 2015. Stephanie is interested in a career as a nurse at emergency rooms, in oncology or a travelling practice. Over the next few years, Stephanie would like to establish a home and find both financial and emotional support.
<strong>Carleigh Tarbox – </strong>Carleigh has been involved with YLAT since she was 14 years old! Staying involved in YLAT is important to Carleigh because she wants to continuously make positive changes within the system. She believes that “the system is flawed and damage but youth in foster care are not.” Carleigh works at a health and wellness store and lives to change the lives of her guests. She is also studying social work at the University of Southern Maine. After college, Carleigh plans to continue making changes in the child welfare system through policy. Carleigh is also a Jim Casey Young Fellow with the Annie E. Casey Foundation and has the honor of advocating on behalf of youth in care in Maine. If you’re ever interested in what youth are changing in other states, Carleigh is the person to ask!
<strong>Amber Munson – </strong>Amber started with YLAT during her teen years attending the Bangor group. She now co-facilitates the Skowhegan group! Amber recently represented the State of Maine by attending the Leaders of Change conference in Washington, D.C., She says “it was great to learn what other states were doing and to share the work being done here in Maine.” Amber continues to be involved and committed to this work because: “unless you have been in foster care, you cannot fully understand the emotions and difficulties youth in care face”. She believes the only way to improve the child welfare system is for youth to speak up and help others understand their point of view. Amber is a student at the University of Maine at Farmington. With her degree, Amber would like to work with children and young mothers. She would like to still be living in Maine.
<strong>Kesha Shelton – </strong>Kesha first became connected with YLAT in 2004 because she was a young person in care and on the V-9. Kesha continues to be involved in working with YLAT because it promotes a safe environment for young people in care to come together and make a difference. Kesha has had the chance to watch, help and support many young people grow their confidence and find their voice. Kesha believes witnessing the journey of youth finding themselves “is a beautiful process”. Currently Kesha is working on getting her bachelor’s degree in business administration and would like to open her own mechanic shop. She lives with her partner and 2 cats. In the future, Kesha plans to still be dedicated to the foster care system by continuing her work with YLAT and the Maine Youth Transition Collaborative (MYTC).
<strong>Ivy Neher – </strong></strong>Ivy is a former youth in care who is now adopted. When Ivy was approached to be an Alumni Co-Facilitator, she felt compelled to help with what she describes as a “noble cause”. Ivy feels like she can be an asset to youth because she knows what it is like to be put into the care of the state. In the past, Ivy has participated in panel presentations, where she expressed some of her experiences and she hopes to continue to help make the system better for current and future youth in foster care. Currently, Ivy is a college student, majoring in liberal studies with a minor in psychology and she hopes to have a successful career and life ahead of her. In her spare time Ivy likes to write, sing, and play guitar.
<strong>Sierra Reed – </strong>Sierra first became involved with YLAT in 2006 after learning about the group from her case worker. Since then, Sierra has continued to be involved because she is passionate about improving the child welfare system she used to be a part of. She understands how important it is for young people in care to have a support system who genuinely cares about them and whom they can relate to. Right now, Sierra is working on several creative projects which include learning to play the guitar, painting, drawing, and writing a fantasy/sci-fi novel. Sierra is interested in pursuing a degree in communications. In the future she hopes to be a published author as well as accomplish something spectacular for youth in foster care.