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.
The Alumni Co-Facilitators for the 2013-2014 YLAT year included:
Cheri Crossman – Southern Maine (Districts 1 & 2)
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 supports 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”.
Leah Cleland – Lewiston (District 3)
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 the 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 – Rockland (District 4)
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.
Amber Munson – Augusta and Skowhegan (District 5)
Amber first became involved with YLAT during her teen years and attended the Bangor group. Through YLAT, she was asked to complete the community conversation training with her foster mother. Since the training, Amber and her foster mother have been involved in many community conversations.
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”. Amber believes the only way to improve the child welfare system is for youth to speak up and help others understand their point of view.
Recently, Amber started her second year of college at the University of Maine at Farmington. In the future, Amber would like to finish college and work at a preschool. She would like to still be living in Maine. Amber also wants to continue to be involved with community conversations and other programs helping to improve the child welfare system.
Shannon Watts – Bangor (District 6)
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.
Kesha Shelton – Downeast (District 7)
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 automotive repair degree and would like to open her own mechanic shop. Kesha would like to get married since gay marriage is now legal in Maine. She is working towards affording to get married and starting a family.
In the future, Kesha plans to remain dedicated to the foster care system by continuing her work with YLAT and the Maine Youth Transition Collaborative (MYTC).
Ivy Neher – Aroostook (District 8)
Ivy is a former youth in care who has since been adopted. Ivy first joined YLAT with her three younger sisters and she feels that the work done in YLAT is great. When she was approached to be an Alumni Co-Facilitator, Ivy 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. She wants to continue to help make the system better for future youth in foster care.
Currently, Ivy is going to college, studying liberal arts and hopes to have a successful career and life ahead of her. In her spare time Ivy likes to write, sing, and play guitar.