Jim Casey Fellows Names Newest Cohort of Young Leaders
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.