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.
Stephanie Gerard – 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, Stephanie is studying to become a medical assistant and is expected to graduate in June 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.
Carleigh Tarbox – As an advocate for youth in foster care, Carleigh has been a member of YLAT since she was 14 years old! Staying involved in YLAT is important to Carleigh because she believes in not only speaking up for yourself but also speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves. “I’ve also witnessed firsthand the powerful and inspiring changes that youth voice can make in child welfare system.” Carleigh is a social work major at the University of Southern Maine and really enjoys her part-time job working at Amistad. In her free time, Carleigh spends time with her family and friends, catches up on her favorite shows and loves to cook new recipes!! Carleigh strives to be happy in all areas of her life and always find ways to make herself a better person so in return she can contribute to making the world a better place.
Amber Munson – Amber started with YLAT during her teen years attendeding 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”. 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. Recently, Amber started her third 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.
Kesha Shelton – 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 finally legal in Maine. She is working towards affording to get married and start a family. 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 – 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, majoring in liberal studies with a minor in psychology and hopes to have a successful career and life ahead of her. In her spare time Ivy likes to write, sing, and play guitar
Sierra Reed – 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.