Six years in California’s foster care system were enough to show Akalei that there is definitely room for improvement in the way foster youth are treated while in foster care, and the resources available to them after they leave the system. With her extensive involvement in foster youth advocacy and the Native American community, Akalei is on her way to earning a law degree so she can better represent foster youth as a family court lawyer.
When asked why it was important for foster care youth to work to improve the foster care system, Ashleigh had this to say: “The main reason we are the perfect people to change the system is because we have seen its flaws from within. An outsider can only sympathize with our experience, whereas we are able to empathize with one another.” Her Native American heritage along with her experience as a foster youth, has given Akalei a variety of leadership opportunities in both communities. In addition to being the keynote speaker at the Foster Youth Conference at the University of California at Davis, she was the Powwow Coordinator at the Cross Cultural Center at UC-Davis as well. She coordinated events that shared Native music, dance, voices, art and culture with the campus and the community. These events promoted dialogue around the social, cultural, historical and political issues facing Native Americans today. Akalei graduated from Santa Barbara City College with three AA degrees in Native American Studies, Liberal Studies and Sociology. She is currently double-majoring in Native American Studies and Sociology at UC-Davis. After receiving a scholarship for an 8-week Law School Prep Course, Akalei will take the LSAT this summer and plans on applying to law school in the Fall.