Maria Rodriguez spent 7 years in Arizona's foster care system.

Maria Rodriguez entered foster care at the age of 10 and lived in six homes over seven years, and both of her biological parents passed away while she was in care. But the memory of the care and compassion that she received from the group home employees where she lived when she lost her father helped her see how a negative experience could have a positive outcome, and taught her to see her time in care in a positive light. She has transformed what she has learned into service to others, leading young people as president of her Youth Advisory Board. In this position, she leads youth-run bimonthly meetings to address the current concerns of foster youth. Under her leadership, the group discusses concerns, brainstorm solutions, and then speaks to the appropriate authorities about positive ways forward. Through YAB, Maria represents Maricopa County at State Board meetings and participates on a panel with foster parents to give them an inside look into the needs of a teenage foster youth. She has also volunteered at John C. Lincoln Hospital and participated in the summer internship program at Arizona Call-a-Teen Youth Resources and at St. Mary’s Food Bank. Her journey has not been an easy one, but she believes that life within foster care can be happy and that foster youth can work toward their goals and life in a positive way—and she’s proving it