Jim Casey Fellows Names Newest Cohort of Young Leaders

Posted May 2, 2022
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
The image is an illustrated graphic depicting five young adults of varying ethnic backgrounds. Above their heads are colorful thought bubbles containing the terms: youth homelessness, racial equity, tuition waivers, teen pregnancy and mental health.

The Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion recent­ly named nine new Jim Casey Fel­lows, emerg­ing lead­ers who have fos­ter care expe­ri­ence and the desire to improve out­comes for their peers in child wel­fare sys­tems. Youth home­less­ness, racial equi­ty, men­tal health, col­lege tuition waivers and teen preg­nan­cy are among the inter­ests iden­ti­fied as impor­tant to the mem­bers of the 2021 cohort.

The Jim Casey Fel­lows — who are age 18 or old­er — receive train­ing in lead­er­ship and advo­ca­cy skills through the Casey Foun­da­tion. The Fel­lows’ rec­om­men­da­tions help inform Casey’s strate­gies for old­er youth in fos­ter care who are tran­si­tion­ing to adulthood.

The newest Jim Casey Fel­lows and their home states include:

  • Ned­hal Al-Kaza­hy (Nebras­ka)
  • Aponi Boy­er (Hawaii)
  • Alyssa Davis (New Mexico)
  • Natas­sia Gor­don (Rhode Island)
  • Diane Guz­man (Cal­i­for­nia)
  • Aly Leonard (Indi­ana)
  • Leslie McClain (Geor­gia)
  • Teshi­ana Smith-Nichols (Penn­syl­va­nia)
  • Jamiesun Vaughn (Mis­sis­sip­pi)

Our voice mat­ters,” says Natas­sia Gor­don from Rhode Island. I know that change doesn’t hap­pen overnight, but I know that with the help of every­one around me, some change can be done for the future gen­er­a­tion.” Gor­don aspires to a career in social work. The Rhode Island-based non­prof­it Fos­ter For­ward, a Jim Casey Youth Oppor­tu­ni­ties Ini­tia­tive® part­ner site, nom­i­nat­ed Gor­don to par­tic­i­pate in the program.

The newest Jim Casey Fel­lows join a net­work of peers who are using their real-life exper­tise and apply­ing their advanc­ing skills to nation­al work at the Foun­da­tion — mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the field in part­ner­ship with their Jim Casey Ini­tia­tive local sites.

Through its youth-adult part­ner­ship mod­el, the Jim Casey Fel­lows pro­gram demon­strates the val­ue and long-term ben­e­fit of authen­ti­cal­ly engag­ing the peo­ple who are clos­est to crit­i­cal issues, as they know what they need and hold answers and cre­ative solu­tions,” says Leslie Gross, direc­tor of the Foundation’s Fam­i­ly Well-Being Strat­e­gy Group.

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