Marcelina Valenzuela spent 7 years in California's Foster Care System

Marcelina was born as a drug addicted infant and went directly into foster care. Her father gained custody of her at 4. Life at home was abusive, and Marcelina entered the juvenile system at age 13. She was in and out of care in multiple placements until she emancipated at the age of 18 ½. Marcelina is currently attending Los Angeles City College with a major in Criminal Justice. She plans to get her AA in Criminal Justice and transfer to CSULA. Future plans are to continue studies in Criminal Justice, attain a BS degree and follow with a doctorate in criminal justice and minority studies.

Marcelina’s career plans include becoming a parole officer working with youth and adults in Youth Authority. She would also like to be an ILP Coordinator for foster and probation youth. Marcelina also desires to open up a facility at her church that helps youth with housing, education, jobs and different resources. Additionally she would like to open up a non-profit organization for sexually abused individuals providing counseling, support and housing.

Marcelina has persevered through the challenges in her life and used her experiences to help others. She says. “I love working with foster youth! It’s my passion! I want to be a role model to the youth. All my experiences molded me into the person I am today, so I can relate with the youth and guide them. I appreciate the struggles I’ve been through because it helped open my eyes and be compassionate. I have made many mistakes and have learned from them.

I have been the abused, the trouble maker and also the achiever. I believe my purpose is to work with foster and probation youth and I will continue to strive to do so. I believe we are all great and sometimes just need to be reminded. I don’t ever want to have someone feel left out or left behind. I know I will do great at supporting and guiding foster youth because it’s what I am meant to do.”

Her leadership and volunteer work include being a Peer Mentor for the Citrus College ILP program, involvement in service clubs at her school and is an active member in LACC's LGBT Alliance club. Marcelina is an active member in her church, involved with the REACH program that help clean the streets of Los Angeles every Saturday morning and feed the homeless, along with other multiple organizations. She has received many awards, one of which included meeting Maria Shriver.

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