Cherish Thomas spent 14 years in Michigan's and Georgia's Foster Care System

“Youth are people with purpose,” Cherish Thomas says. A big thinker with even bigger goals, Cherish is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan. Upon graduation, she will step into the role of President/CEO of Cherish Our Youth, an organization she founded to help foster youth in under-served communities reach their goals and lead healthy, productive, full lives. Additionally, Cherish plans to become a best selling author, motivational speaker and radio personality working to support and improve the foster care system one story at a time. Cherish also hopes to earn her PhD in Education and one day open a charter school (with accompanying financial aid support) for foster care youth. The energetic spirit and relentless drive Cherish embodies seems to have always been within her. In high school, Cherish was the President of the Black Student Union and a participant in Georgia’s Freedom School Initiative. During her undergraduate study, Cherish was also the 2nd Vice President of the National Council of Negro Women—UM Chapter. One of her most notable accomplishments occurred during her senior year, when she helped create what is a now an annual conference supported by both university educational departments and local businesses that raises thousands of dollars for the foster care system. Said Cherish about the first conference they put on, "the speaking and planning my conference spurred out of realization that no community service was being performed to help youth in the foster care system and I figured since I had the experience then I would be the perfect catalyst to start creating something that would allow people to help them and become educated about their needs." This conference was so successful that Cherish and her team hosted an additional conference at Oakland University. Cherish then helped found a non profit called "Cherish Our Youth" (COY), which will take over the responsibility of planning and hosting this conference annually. this year, they are expecting 200 attendees. When she was just one-year-old, Cherish was placed into foster care. Over the next 14 years, Cherish lived in 20 homes, including a detention center, three group homes and a shelter. She experienced two failed adoptions and various family structures in two different state systems of foster care (Michigan and Georgia). But through her challenges, Cherish found her calling: to invest herself in today’s—and tomorrow’s—foster care youth.

Team(s) or Cohort(s)
2011 Outstanding Young Leaders