One of twenty-two! That was FAAZ Young Adult Board Member, Maria Rodriguez, who was selected to participate in Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative’s Youth Leadership Institute (YLI). The summer program took Maria from Arizona to Washington D.C. and into our Nation’s Capitol. Maria spent six days training on how to strategically share her story and advocacy agenda with elected officials who have the power to improve the foster care system.
“We had specific training about adolescent development, which is a topic that should be talked about. We made visits on Capitol Hill and shared our views about the expansion of foster care to age 21, especially for the states that don’t have it, and how it could benefit their young people.”
Maria believes youth voice is critical to change. For young people participating in the future, Maria says, “Be prepared to listen, but also, be prepared to speak and participate in the conversations too.” Maria found it cool to hear different points of view from across the nation, and more importantly how the views of her peers can make an impact on the system.
Although Maria is no stranger to advocating in D.C. and speaking to congressional members, she says she learned a lot through this experience and can’t wait to bring back her knowledge to Arizona.