April 26, 2024

Youth Advocate Cody Van Felden Honored for Resilience and Impact

Youth Advocate Cody Van Felden Honored for Resilience and Impact

“The first 18 years of my life tested my resiliency: I was adopted at age 4, experienced 13 years of emotional abuse and was homeless as a minor. These are things that no child or youth should experience.” 

These were the opening remarks of Cody Van Felden, a former foster youth and youth advocate mentor at John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY). Cody was rounding out the second half of a big day. 

Her day started by receiving the Live United award from the United Ways of California in recognition of her significant contribution to expand access to state and federal tax credits.

The United Ways of California selected just three people from across the state. The other two awardees were State Assemblymember Gregg Hart and State Senator Steve Padilla.  

According to Anna Hasslebad, Senior Director of Policy  at United Ways of California, Cody was a clear pick: “She is unflinching in her convictions and willingness to share what she knows with others.”

From there, Cody made her way to a reception at the California Museum to honor John Burton and celebrate the 20th anniversary of JBAY. Cody followed an all-star line-up that included President Pro Tem Mike McGuire, Senator Angelique Ashby, Senator Tom Umberg, Senator President Pro Tempore Emeritus Toni G. Atkins, Speaker of the Assembly Robert Rivas and Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis.

Cody made it clear what she is working to achieve at JBAY, “John Burton Advocates for Youth understands the power of resiliency, but also that none of us got where we are without help and support. We’re working toward a vision where stable housing for youth coming from foster care is not a privilege but a norm, and where postsecondary education is a reality and not a dream.”

Cody has worked towards that vision in partnership with JBAY for the last four years. She started as a Youth Advocate immediately prior to the pandemic. At the time, she was finishing her associate’s degree at Cosumnes River College. This May, she will earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Sacramento State and join the JBAY team as a staff member in October. 

JBAY Executive Director Amy Lemley could not be happier, “Cody has played a critical role in our policy victories. She is great at helping people understand how certain decisions play out in the lives of young people. We are all looking forward to having her on the JBAY team as a staff member.”

As Cody explained in her speech, today she is operating from a position of strength. “The last five years of my life have demonstrated my resiliency: I became an advocate. I became a mother. In May, I will earn my bachelor’s degree in psychology. I also received my first award just earlier today for my advocacy.”

At JBAY, we are certain this is the first of many to come. 

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