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Vanessa is an alumni of the New York City foster care system. She is currently an Education Specialist at the New York State Technical and Education Assistance Center for Homeless Students (NYS-TEACHS), a project funded by the New York State Education Department and housed at Advocates for Children of New York (AFC). In this capacity she provides information and training about the educational rights of students, especially those experiencing homelessness, to families, youth, social service providers, and school personnel. Before joining NYS-TEACHS as a full-time employee in October 2009, Vanessa worked as a Legal Assistant at AFC and at the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), where she took on different projects that included supporting CSSP’s litigation team and gathering information on financing reform in child welfare. In addition to her work at NYS-TEACHS, Vanessa is a Contributing Writer for Represent, an award-winning national magazine, where she writes articles about the experiences of youth in the NYC foster care system and conducts research on policy issues. She is also a member on the Outcomes Roundtable for Children and Families (ORCF), a group working with the Child, Adolescent and Family Branch of the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Vanessa’s commitment for social justice has taken her to organizations such as GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) where she worked as a Student Club Assistant and supervised 35 students from all around the country. In 2006 Vanessa was a Grand Prize winner of the Child Welfare Fund’s Awards for Youth in Foster Care. The award recognizes exceptional youth in the NYC foster care system who have overcome obstacles and for their demonstrated leadership. Vanessa has also been honored by the Collin Higgins Foundation, Casey Family Programs and PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) for her contributions to improving the lives of children and youth and for her work in child welfare. Vanessa attended the Centro Bachillerato Tecnologico Agropecuario (CBTa71) in Morelos, Mexico and was a Junior Fellow at the School of Public Affairs of Baruch College, the City University of New York (CUNY) in 2008. Her hope is to attend graduate school and obtain a masters degree in public policy or international development.