Advocating for Youth in Foster Care
Nourishing The Seeds
Foster care creates a rich yet tough soil where youth must learn to advocate for themselves in order to survive. Through community nourishment, youth gain the power to transform the landscape of their journey. This is the beautiful challenge of the work of Peace4Kids.
They labeled me a “trouble-maker” from the very beginning.
Before I even learned to walk, my father made his transition and my siblings and I were split into different foster homes in Compton and surrounding South Central neighborhoods. This was the beginning of a life of constant change — I continuously felt the ground shifting beneath my feet and had only a conceptual understanding of stability.
I learned how to be vocal and bold, thinking this was how I could get what I needed, but it rarely worked. I stayed in trouble.
I spoke my truth and cried out for justice. However, I felt as if no one in power was willing to listen. I challenged hegemony and demanded remedies when systems and people were unjust and inequitable. My propensity to challenge injustice caused social workers and other agents of the state to continue to label me as a “trouble-maker.” Frankly, I didn’t care.
That all changed when I met the woman I now call mom. She looked at me one day and said, “You could be president. You just need to apply yourself in a different manner.”
Was she right? If I changed, would someone listen?
I took a shot and for the first time, I had broken free from the notion that children should be seen and not heard. She helped me redefine my identity from “trouble-maker” into a budding activist who demanded justice.
She helped me conceive a new sense of pride, which I could feel growing and expanding within me. Finally, an adult had given me permission to challenge the way things were. In so doing, I realized that standing up for what I believed didn’t have to always be a struggle.
As I began to choose my battles more wisely, I continued to run into trouble because my instincts told me to fight and push back against ideas contrary to my own. I found myself in a constant state of survival. If I could stay in attack mode, then my likelihood of being challenged was reduced. I found comfort in aggression because, in a strange way, it provided some semblance of autonomy in a life that always seemed to be governed by others.
However, I found it mentally exhausting to always be looking for my next fight.
In third grade, my teacher, Anthony, took me along with a group of students out of the city and exposed me to Earth’s natural beauty. Through his welcoming and disarming ways, he showed me the tranquility of the world. I learned to commune with and immerse myself in nature and more importantly, to not fight it. I found comfort in silence.
Anthony became my godfather and eventually, my legal guardian. Most of my my life had been spent fighting and chasing after what I needed, but now, things seemed different. I learned that I could get what I needed by being still. As the years went by, I learned to integrate these ideas into my everyday life; I could fight when necessary or immerse myself into my surroundings to listen and learn.
Through the garden maintained by youth in foster care, I was able to reconnect with my brothers [at Peace4Kids] who had also found a space of solace and peace. There, I learned about the power of choice and built a deeper understanding of effective communication. I was given the opportunity to advocate for what we collectively needed. Seeing my actions directly affect policy and improve the foster care experience was emboldening. Through the outings and camps, I continued to connect with nature and ultimately, my own voice. I learned that to be a social justice warrior, I must also be a steward of mother nature.
I have taken these lessons from Anthony and Peace4Kids into adulthood. Today, I’ve dedicated my life to being a compassionate and radical leader who gives space for the ecosystem of humanity to shift into balance.
Through this philosophy, I have received numerous accolades, including being honored as a White House Champion of Change. More importantly, I have the pleasure of passing this knowledge and awareness to my children.
Recently, the opportunity to work at Educators for Excellence brought me back home to Los Angeles. Immediately, upon my return, I stepped back into a leadership role at Peace4Kids in order to advance the mission and vision that had such a transformative impact on my life.
In addition to serving as a board member for Peace4Kids, I’m also a board member for Community Nature Connection (CNC) which advocates for access and equity in the outdoors. Personally, I long advocated for Peace4Kids to reignite the tradition of taking young people on camping trips. Last week, I was honored to see more than thirty Peace4Kids youth attend their first camp hosted by CNC. My 8-year-old self was extremely proud when I had the pleasure of joining the kids for a hike and was struck by some of the questions they asked.
As I watched them discover themselves through the natural world, I was reminded of my own commitment to being present with the silence, as much as I am with my own voice.
To hear more about how Peace4Kids connects children with Nature, listen to Sirius XM's Ear Snacks, episode "Seeds II" (P4K segment starts at 10:10)
As we celebrate our 20 Year Anniversary, we encourage you to take a lesson from our youth and embrace the traumas that have shaped your life. To #SeeTheHero and to affirm your greatness.
Step into our Heroes Circle by clicking the button below and making a monthly donation to help build a sustainable future for youth transitioning out of foster care. 100% of your donation funds strength based, youth focused programming in South LA - honoring each youth’s unique needs, experiences, abilities and legacy. In return, you'll:
- Be invited to exclusive events
- Receive a limited edition 20 Year Anniversary t-shirt
- Be inspired by stories of resilience, strength and promise from our Peace4Kids family
- #SeeTheHero in our youth, because the truth is… that’s who they are.