January 25, 2024

Meet JBAY’s Youth Advocates Leading Change in 2024

Meet JBAY’s Youth Advocates Leading Change in 2024

John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) is thrilled to introduce our team of Youth Advocates for 2024! This dynamic group of eight young adults plays a pivotal role in our success, bringing valuable firsthand experiences from their time in foster care or facing homelessness. Their perspectives enrich our efforts in the crucial areas of education, housing, and health.

JBAY brought together the new and returning Youth Advocates, along with our dedicated staff, on January 19th in Sacramento for an orientation and an tour of the State Capitol.

The class of 2024 comprises individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Many are college students, triumphing over the challenges that often prevent homeless and foster youth from obtaining a degree. Traneisia Jones is a student at Sacramento State, while Kristin Hernandez attends UC Davis. Esmeralda Nuno Mora attends UC Berkeley, Wednesday Pope is pursuing her degree at Folsom Community College, Rosella Wilhem is enrolled at American River College and Taneil Franklin is a student at LA Trade Tech.

Several Youth Advocates have actively participated in programs created or expanded by JBAY’s advocacy, such as extended foster care, NextUp, Guardian Scholars, transitional housing, and the Foster Youth Tax Credit. For some of our new Youth Advocates, the motivation to get involved with JBAY stemmed from the desire to expand access to these crucial programs.

Empowering youth stands out as another key motivation expressed by the new Youth Advocates, including Traneisia, who states, “What most interests me about becoming a youth advocate is advocating for those who have not been able to speak for themselves. I was once one of those who thought my words did not matter, and I’m here to help those who think this, because it is not true. I want to show youth that their voice and journey do matter!”

Cody Van Felden and Erin Clews will be returning in 2024 to serve as Youth Advocate Mentors. Both have been involved with JBAY for over two years, contributing to numerous projects. Cody played a central role in implementing the Foster Youth Tax Credit and recently represented JBAY at a national conference in Atlanta, encouraging other states to replicate this vital work.

Erin played a critical role in the passage of Assembly Bill 789, reforming financial aid for over 3 million students in California by requiring colleges and universities to adopt more student-friendly policies. Currently a student at UC Santa Cruz, Erin will continue to be involved in the legislation’s implementation.

Together, this exceptional group of young individuals brings a wealth of experience and commitment. Congratulations! We eagerly anticipate a fantastic year working together. Stay tuned over the next several months as JBAY introduces each of these inspiring young leaders.