Nineteen year old Peterson Rodriguez is a student at John Jay College pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. He is also a member of his local youth board, Youth A.W.A.K.E., and a youth advocate for N.Y.F.C (New Yorkers for Children) Youth Advisory Board. As an active member, Peterson helps advocate for other youth in foster care through workshops and forums. He is also part of the Youth Speakers Bureau and travels to different agencies to speak to foster parents and children and share his experiences to motivate other youth in foster care.
Peterson’s mentor writes; “Through this involvement with Children's Services and NYFC we have come to know him as a committed and articulate leader in his peer group. Because of Peterson's leadership skills, academic accomplishments and commitment to his community, he recently became a NYFC Guardian Scholar.”
Outside of his volunteer work with the youth boards, Peterson spends his summers volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army. He also teaches children’s swim classes at Sheltering Arms Pool Summer Youth Program. Peterson had to overcome multiple challenges during the four and half years he spent in foster care. Because of his circumstances, he often felt different than other youth and found himself nervous and hesitant when he had occasion to reach out to friends or speak up in class.
“A difficult challenge I faced in foster care was that I was very socially challenged. I didn’t like talking to people because I wasn’t comfortable with myself,” says Peterson. After some encouragement from teachers and others, however, Peterson found his voice.
Now Peterson has no hesitation whatsoever about sharing his experiences and speaking out boldly on behalf of youth in the system. He reflects, “My experience gave me a voice that I am not afraid to use and its giving me knowledge of the foster care system that I am not afraid to share with other youth in foster care.”
When he isn’t at school or volunteering, Peterson is an avid reader who enjoys all types of novels. He loves to write poetry, short stories and music, especially raps. After graduation, he hopes to pursue a law degree. Peterson’s favorite thing to do, though, is volunteering and helping others.