Foster Care Alumni Award

Each year, we recognize and honor the important contributions child welfare system alumni in Maine with the Foster Care Alumni Award. We will strive to award to a male and female alumni each year.

The recipient must be a former youth in care, 22 years old or older, who has demonstrated that he or she has:


  1. Made a strong commitment to helping youth currently in care.

  2. Advocated on behalf of youth in care.

  3. Practiced effective leadership within change efforts (such as youth leadership meetings, work groups, committee work, projects, etc.).

  4. Acted as a positive role model for youth in care.

Alumni Award Recipients
2018: Tia Knowlton-Basford and Huyanna Clearwater
Tia Knowton-Basford and Huyanna Clearwater

Mariah Knight

Mariah Knight

When meeting Mariah, one immediately notices her resilient, positive personality, and positive outlook on life. She took on 17 credits her first year of college and, despite barriers, was able to earn a 3.76 GPA in her first semester, while also taking on advocacy projects for youth in foster care. Mariah has a strong voice and advocates for herself and others involved in the system.  In 2019, Mariah began participating in panels for prospective foster parents. She embraced the role of Alumni Co-Facilitator for Southern Maine YLAT meetings, giving it 100% despite working full-time and managing school. Mariah is involved in the Maine Results Count initiative and has traveled to speak at conferences, promoting permanency for all youth in care. Her ability to speak with honesty and passion about the needs of youth in care and deliver her message in an empathic, intelligent, and solution-focused manner has helped policymakers, and national leaders consider making many needed changes.

Additionally, Mariah works with other organizations like JMG, to reach out to area businesses to increase the awareness of youth in care needing basic supplies and food due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her advocacy touched the hearts of leadership in local businesses that they donated gift cards for food and basic supplies to help youth in need. Mariah has worked very hard in school, and as an advocate for others, she is a 2020 graduate of St. Joseph’s College, and recently became a permanency caseworker with OCFS so that she can continue making a positive change for other youth in care.  Mariah is kind, friendly, open, curious, and truly an inspiration to all.

Edward Schnopp

Edward Schnopp

Ed became part of YLAT in the “early days.” We can picture Ed, sitting quietly at those first meetings, wearing his Green Bay Packers jersey, and taking it all in. Ed participated in YLAT for many years by participating in panel presentations, serving as part of Maine Youth Transition Collaborative, the National Youth in Care Coalition, helping to launch Camp To Belong, Maine, among other outstanding or quiet good deeds. Ed was recognized for his outstanding youth leadership in YLAT as the 2003 recipient of the Brad Levesque Leadership Award. His participation in YLAT made it a stronger community because of his warmth, commitment, and welcoming attitude.


Today, Ed continues to demonstrate “going the extra mile” by supporting young people with his commitment to creating a positive experience for youth in care in his role at Sweetser. As adult support, Ed has supported building partnerships between YLAT and Sweetser by helping to organize, recruit, and support youth at YLAT ‘pop-up’ meetings and training. He shows his belief in young people through attending meetings or training to help youth in their transition. Ed makes sure that youth can connect to the resources and supports such as Opportunity Passport, YLAT, and continually supporting young people in setting and achieving goals for themselves.  He has a unique rapport with young people, utilizing a positive attitude and open communication to build great relationships. We are grateful for Ed’s generous heart, warmth, humor, and love of the outdoors. We celebrate that Ed never gives up and that he is still connected with us all.   

Foster Care Alumni Award Recipients:

2019: William Bradford & Amber Munson · 2018: Tia Knowlton-Basford & Huyanna Clearwater · 2017: Kyle Snyder & Stephanie Gerard · 2016: Jessica Harris & Sierra Reed · 2015: Cheri Crossman & Carleigh Lynn Boston · 2014: Josh Magaw & Jill Esty · 2013: Denise Altvater & BJ Kitchin · 2012: Michael Augustine & Kesha Shelton