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100 current and former foster youth receive national honor for personal achievement and community service. WASHINGTON, D.C. – One hundred young people who have been in foster care were named Outstanding Young Leaders of 2009 in celebration of National Foster Care Month. The recipients from all across the U.S. were honored by FosterClub, the national network for youth in foster care, for their leadership, accomplishments, educational achievement, and community service. “Advocating for better policies – and lives – for children and youth in foster care is my passion,” said Wilfredo Soto, a 19 year old Outstanding Young Leader from Connecticut. “As a foster youth, I know what it feels like to be abandoned, stigmatized and traumatized. I am dedicated to creating positive change for children who have experienced what I have.” Photographs and personal stories of each of the 100 Outstanding Young Leaders can be viewed on the FosterClub website at: www.fosterclub.org. The Young Leaders include: • 21 year old Kimberly Snodgrass. After shuffling in and out of foster care, Kimberly was adopted at age 16. Although she did not attend school full-time until age 11, Kimberly graduated from high school with honors and is currently a senior at UC-Irvine. She has written two books on her experiences in foster care and has been accepted to Harvard University, where she hopes to receive a Masters degree in Education and work in the non-profit sector helping foster youth. “Look out for Kimberly,” her nominator said. “She WILL be making a difference.” • 16 year old George White. George entered foster care at age 2 after his father died. Though he has 13 siblings, he has not seen them in many years. A high school junior, George is an aspiring film-maker who has shot and directed videos for Apl.De.Ap of the Black Eyed Peas and for the nonprofit organization Peace4Kids. • 20 year old Cedric Riley. Cedric spent 7 years in Ohio’s foster care system before being adopted. Cedric has received more than $150,000 in academic scholarships at Ohio State University. He often serves as a motivational speaker and in 2008 Cedric hosted a statewide rally titled “Success Is a Choice.” Cedric says “I’ve dedicated my life to making a difference in the lives of foster youth by providing hope and encouragement through my life story.” “Despite the hardships and setbacks these Outstanding Young Leaders faced, they have already achieved great success. As importantly, these inspiring young people are committed to making a difference for the children and youth still in foster care,” said Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee which has jurisdiction over the nation’s child welfare system. “They serve as tremendously effective mentors and role models for youth still in foster care and are working hard to improve the foster care system and the lives and futures of the children in its care.” McDermott has been a dedicated advocate for foster children and introduced and championed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act that was signed into law last year and represented the most significant reform in the child welfare system in over a decade. “What motivates me is knowing that my success is not about me. My success, my story and my hard work will pave the way so that others can have a chance to reach their dreams,” said Keisha Shelton, a Howard University junior and Outstanding Young Leader. “Just because we are in foster care, we shouldn’t get an unfair shot at life...We deserve more.” Foster care was designed as a temporary solution to remove children from abuse and neglect, but children often languish in foster care before returning to their families, joining new adoptive families or living permanently with relative caregivers. More than 26,000 young people “aged out” of foster care last year without a permanent family to rely upon. Research reveals that many youth who “age out” of foster experience homelessness, unemployment, incarceration or illness – fewer than 3% of youth who age out of foster care graduate from college and nearly 1 in 5 become homeless. For more information about FosterClub’s Outstanding Young Leaders and to read the bios of the 2009 recipients, visit www.fosterclub.org. ABOUT FOSTERCLUB: FosterClub is the national network for young people in foster care. FosterClub's mission is to improve life for young people in foster care through a national network that is built for youth and powered by youth. The organization is founded on the principle that young people in and from foster care deserve to be connected, informed, inspired and represented. At the FosterClub Web site, www.fosterclub.org, youth ask questions and get answers. They discover other successful former foster youth, share opinions about their foster care experience, get recognition for overcoming obstacles, and connect with supportive adults. Download the Press Release
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May 7, 2009 By FC Steve