Past Alumni Co-Facilitators
Alumni Co-Facilitators 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.
Leah Cleland 2013-2014
Leah first began attending YLAT meetings over 6 years ago. She first came into care at the age of 7 and just recently aged out. Leah has always been an active advocate for other youth in care since becoming a part of YLAT. Leah has participated in numerous public speaking events to educate: caseworkers, Court Appointed Special Advocate’s (CASA’s) and foster parents on how to better support older youth in foster care. Last year Leah was honored to be Maine’s first youth in care to attend the Foster Club All-Stars Internship program in Oregon. Leah is excited to use the skills and knowledge she learned at this internship in her new role as an Alumni Co-Facilitator. In Leah’s spare time she enjoys family fun with her son who is about to turn one.
Casey Smith 2013-2014
During Casey’s 10 years in foster care, he moved around from group, foster and friend’s homes and was homeless by the age of 17. Casey had lost hope until he found permanency with his now father. Through determination and persistence, Casey wrote a letter that helped initiate the change in Maine State policy allowing him, and other youth in care, to a stay on the Voluntary Extended Support (V-9) Agreement after he was legally adopted by his father at the age of 20.
Casey is a young leader and advocate involved in both YLAT and the Maine Youth Transition Collaborative (MYTC). He is an aspiring author working on his first book, You’re Somebody’s Hero, depicting his time in care and the experience of others who have chosen to share their stories.
Currently, Casey is enrolled in the Human Services program at the University of Maine at Augusta and made the Dean’s list last semester. Casey hopes to continue his education by attending a Master’s program in Early Childhood Development after finishing his Bachelor’s degree. Casey credits his success to his parents and to his support team. For fun he enjoys running, writing, and basketball.
Shannon Watts 2013-2014
Shannon was first introduced to YLAT through her transition and social worker after coming into care. Shannon stays involved in YLAT and working with youth in care because she loves helping people. She enjoys every YLAT meeting because she knows that it is making a difference for someone, somewhere. Shannon recently graduated from the University of Maine Orono with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. Currently, Shannon works as a Mental Health Rehabilitation Technician, and she is about to start graduate school at Edinboro University for a Master’s degree in Social Work. In the future, Shannon would love to become a clinician in the mental health field and to own a private practice. She would also like to continue to work closely with youth in foster care to create change.
Amber Munson 2013-2016
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.
Kesha Shelton 2013-2016
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).
Ivy Neher 2013-2016
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.
Cheri Crossman 2013-2017
Cheri is very excited to be working with Southern Maine YLAT this year! Cheri is a former YLAT member from 2001 and she fondly remembers making connections and building relationships with other YLAT members and supporters when she was in care. Cheri is looking forward to building connections with current youth in care and alumni across southern Maine. Right now, Cheri is working on finishing her Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Southern Maine. She is majoring in Social Work with a minor in Criminology. Over the years, Cheri has started a family and has three children, two dogs and a supportive husband. Cheri hopes to build more support for youth in foster care. One of Cheri’s favorite quotes comes from Eleanor Roosevelt: “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along”.
Stephanie Gerard 2014-2016
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 traveling practice. Over the next few years, Stephanie would like to establish a home and find both financial and emotional support.
Carleigh Boston 2014-2016
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!
Sierra Reed 2014-2016
Sierra first became involved with YLAT in 2006 after learning about the group from her caseworker. 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.
Chrystal Inmann 2016-2017
When Chrystal was 13 years old she entered the foster care system. During her time in care things were not ideal, she moved several times and didn’t have the kind of support a young person should have. Chrystal wants to be involved in this work so other young people can have a different and better experience than she had. Chrystal first began attending YLAT as a way to get of her house for a few hours when she was 14 years old and living in a group home. Over time, YLAT became much more to Chrystal and even now that her life is in a better place, she still wouldn’t want to miss out on a meeting. Currently, Chrystal spends most of her time working at Hannaford, where she is striving to move up in the company. She also received her CNA certificate this past spring. In the future, Chrystal hopes to go back to school to earn a college degree. She would also like to continue her work both locally and nationally to benefit Maine’s Child Welfare System.
Faith Mishkin 2017-2018
Faith found YLAT during a time she was struggling to have her voice be heard in decisions about her own life. This changed for Faith when she was asked to participate in training for foster parents where she felt heard and felt that she was helping others. Eventually, Faith attended a YLAT meeting and she immediately became attached. Faith wants to be an Alumni Co-Facilitator because of her past experiences “I would never want another person to go through the same things I went through; I think we all deserve to be loved and cared for.” She hopes that all youth entering foster care have an easy transition and that they develop great family relationships and friendships. Faith is planning to return to college for Marine Sciences and hopes to eventually become a veterinarian. In addition to co-facilitation, she works two jobs that keep her very busy. Her hopes are to travel the world with her love ones, be successful in her career, have her own family, and continue to work with and develop connections to youth in care.
Huyanna Clearwater 2016-2019
Huyanna spent most of her life in and out of the Child Welfare system here in Maine. Huyanna is a Native American and struggled while in foster care to keep her cultural connections. This experience drives her passion and commitment to improve the Child Welfare System for native and non-native youth in the state and the nation. Eleven years ago a friend told Huyanna that she worked with a local group of youth who improved the foster care system and Huyanna has been a leader in YLAT ever since. Currently, Huyanna is attending college at UMA-Bangor and majoring in Social Science with a focus in Psychology. Huyanna’s hope is to one day work for the National Indian Child Welfare Association.
Kyle Snyder 2017-2019
Kyle, like many young people in the system, grew up all over the state. He is a full-time college student at USM where he is studying criminology and works full time for AAA-Northern New England as the Traffic Safety Specialist/Public Affairs. Kyle lives on his own in sunny Saco Maine, with his cat, Charlotte. Kyle is connected to this work to educate future foster parents, and to help older youth who are getting ready to age out of the system. “I had to learn on my own and make mistakes; I want to share my experiences to help the road to adulthood be a little smoother.” Kyle’s YLAT journey started by doing panels for DHHS. He was later invited to YLAT by his transition worker and “it just blossomed from there.” YLAT was a place where Kyle made friends, used his story and voice to make changes in the lives of other young people, and had the opportunity to advocate for change. He was even able to speak in front of the Maine Legislator and advocate for new laws to be written. Kyle wants to continue to use his role through AAA to help those in care. “I have a passion for this work, and I want to make a difference.” He is excited to be a co-facilitator, develop his facilitation skills and continue to make a change in young people’s lives.
Mariah Knight 2018-2019
Mariah spent most of her childhood spread amongst numerous foster homes in Maine. She is currently working as a waitress at her local Red Robin and has just begun her third year of college. She is majoring in Criminal Justice with a minor in psychology. Her next stop will be law school where she plans to specialize in child advocacy. After reaching her educational goals, Mariah aims to become a respite foster care parent. She is committed to improving the child welfare system because she believes foster children have been dealt an unfair deck of cards and deserve to be taken care of. Mariah has spoken on multiple panels an opportunity given to her by YLAT. She is looking forward to becoming more involved with YLAT through this co-facilitation position.