Wilfredo Soto is nineteen years old and is a sophomore at the University of Connecticut. He is expected to graduate with an Individualized Major in Child Development and Social Welfare Policy in 2011 and plans to obtain his Doctorate in Social Work in 2015. He has been a consumer of child services as of age fifteen and serves as a Director of the Board and Co-Chair for the membership and marketing committee of the National Latino Behavioral Health Association (NLBHA). He has worked for a federally funded non-profit while in high school from fifteen until he was eighteen. Furthermore, Wilfredo was one of the lead authors of a Special Edition of a national Child Welfare Journal. He is currently working with NCTSN on two projects for publication.
Wilfredo has founded and begun his own Sole Proprietorship called “Guiding Adolescents and Children at Risk (GEAR) Enterprise”. The goal is to travel the world reaching out to all people, especially foster children and youth, who are at risk, of entering the system, letting them know that there is a way out of their pain. Through his life story he hopes to spark inspiration and empower people of all ages to an empowered way of life.
Wilfredo has shared his story, consulted, conducted webinars and mentored over hundreds of young people. In addition, he has addressed thousands of people of all professions and ages at the local, state, and national levels. He has sat on a panel in June 2007 in Washington, D.C. with California State Representative Grace Napolitano addressing Politicians, Legislature, State Representatives and their Aide’s on the issue regarding the need to maintain funding for “America’s Mental Health Programs”. He has shared his story and consulted for the Bridgeport Board of Education in the State of CT on child welfare issues, and facilitated community forums and venues. Such audiences included youth, professionals, students, families, social workers, clinicians, administrative staff, Psychologists, health care workers, government officials, health care workers, lawyers, school faculty and doctors ranging from thirty to three thousand people. Wilfredo is also the recipient of the Secretary of Connecticut’s Excellence in Citizenship Award in June 2007, recipient of Barbera Bellinger’s Youth Resilience Award (VP of Management for People United Bank, Pearl Johnson Resilient Leader Award given annual by NARPA and his story was shared in the United Way of South Eastern Connecticut Annual Report.
He has been recruited by the Alaska Peer Support Consortium, Mental Health America, South Western Mental Health Board, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), MAACS/CAP AmeriCorps, Public Allies, the Bridgeport Board of Education, an Aide to former Assistant Superintendant of Schools for the Bridgeport (Connecticut) Public School system Douglas Hisscox, the Regional Youth/Adult Substance Abuse Administration (RYASAP), the REACH Institute, Youth Motivating Others through Voices of Experience (Youth MOVE), the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), the National Latino Behavioral Health Association (NLBHA), the Partnership for Kids (PARK) Project, A Family Advocacy Organization Incorporated (FAVOR, Inc.), and the Child Health and Development Institute (CHDI) of CT, to share his knowledge, consult, and critique on youth empowerment and foster care as related to his experience. In addition, he is assisting Dr. Susan Keys, the contact person for the Inspire Organization based out of Australia. He has helped her develop her mission statement, target population, website, and social marketing plan to establish an American version of the Australian youth group.