Meet Our Youth Leaders
Our Youth Leaders guide NMCAN’s policy work. Members work to engage peers and the community in systems and policy change.
Ya’at’eeh! Hope is a young Indigenous woman of color from the Diné Nation Reservation. She identifies as Queer, Latina, and is a part of the Mescalero Apache and Comanche Nations. Hope has experienced homelessness for approximately 12 years out of the 21 years she has lived. Most of those years, she also survived sexual violence, domestic violence, and other various traumatic experiences. Currently, she is a student at the University of New Mexico, in her senior year double major in Intercultural Communication and Native American Studies with a minor in Peace Studies. She serves as a catalyst for change and is exceptionally active in her community. Hope has held an officer position in UNM KiVA Club for the past three years and is currently a lead organizer with the Red Nation. She serves as a voice for the land that is being violated by fracking, drilling, mining and other forms of environmental racism. For her people, she understands that what happens to mother earth happens to the woman and feminine beings of this earth. Hope has background experience organizing in farm work, juvenile justice reform, restorative justice, behavioral health advocacy as well as foster care advocacy at the local and state level for more than four years. She hopes to pursue a higher education degree in becoming a Grassroots Community Organizer, Educator, and/or Tribal Attorney with the overall goal of working in her tribe to use their sovereignty and self determination to create better cultural competence, health care, education, employment opportunities for a more equitable environment for her people, and more broadly, for all people and our nonhuman relatives. Ahe’hee
Micaela is 21 years old and wonderful mother of two. Micaela is a Youth Advocate with NMCAN and has experience advocating though Youth Uniting Voices, Youth Advocates (LUVYA) from the age of 16 to 19 years old. She has also participated in advocacy against sex trafficking through Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD). Micaela was unsheltered for a total of three years and lived in over four different shelters in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos. From age six to 11, she had violent experiences in foster care such as sexual abuse and sex trafficking. She was adopted at the age of 11, but ended up back in care and aged out of the foster care system. Micaela hopes to share her voice and make a difference in the world through prevention and intervention of sex trafficking not only in the foster care system but in our communities. She is inspirational, resilient and gives a voice for other young mothers in and out of the system.
Andrew spent five years in foster care and has served as a youth advocate since 2016. He is the former president of Leaders Uniting Voices, Youth Advocates of New Mexico (LUVYA) and has been involved with NMCAN since 2015. Andrew is passionate about advocating for improving the foster care system, particularly around sibling rights and the implementation of a grievance process for young people in care. He is a youth engagement trainer, training adult professionals how to positively engage with young people, and a participant in Making Connections: International District, part of Young Men of Color. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, yoga, meditation, reading, watching WWE, and going to concerts. His ultimate goal is to “change society for the better and to improve the foster care system”.
Krystal spent one year in foster care and has served as a youth advocate since aging out of care. She has been a Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative Young Fellows since 2013. Krystal enjoys being an advocate because she wants younger youth to know that they can stand up for themselves and make a difference. During the 2014 legislative session, she served as an expert witness providing critical testimony in favor of the tuition waiver for foster youth. Krystal has shared her experience and expertise on multiple episodes of PBS’s Public Square and New Mexico In Focus. In her spare time, she savors “tedious” things like crocheting and coloring. She also enjoys volunteering with her church and participating in community theatre. Krystal graduated from UNM with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and is now working at an organization the focuses on children’s mental health.
Marco spent over two years in foster care and has served as a youth advocate for more than seven years. He loves being an advocate because he believes that in order to create change in the world everyone’s voice should be heard. He also enjoys it because it allows him to meet new people and to witness people coming together as one. In 2015, Marco served as a youth consultant to the collaborative workgroup that successfully created the New Mexico Prudent Parenting Standard and policies that support young people having normalized experiences while in foster care, and in 2017, he participated in the Youth Leadership Institute at Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. Marco’s ultimate goal is to bring people together to create change, peace, and more love in this world.
Alyssa spent a total of 12 years in foster care. She was adopted for five years, but ended up back in care and aged out. Alyssa is now a new mother and is in college and working at Pegasus Legal Services for Children. She is vice president of Leaders Uniting Voices, Youth Advocates (LUVYA) and works with many other organizations. Having been published eight times for her poetry, Alyssa hopes to someday publish a book. She is a born leader and hopes to do much more in the future.
Jesús has spent time with NMCAN to develop his advocacy skills and has a combined experience of eight years in the foster care, treatment foster care, and juvenile justice system. He is currently a double major in Psychology and Philosophy at the University of New Mexico. He is a research assistant for the President of the Research Society on Marijuana, studying alcohol and cannabis with a focus on protective behavioral strategies. Thoroughly involved in campus life, he is an educational peer mentor for the men of color and volunteers with ASUNM & Student Special Events. He is studying for the GRE as well as attending various conferences for advocacy and networking for doctorial programs for clinical or addiction psychology. Within his advocacy work, he strives to promote higher education, life skills, and psycho-education in hopes of decreasing youth experiencing crisis and increasing self-empowerment. In moments of his life, he experienced homelessness and turmoil. He feels there is an opportunity to help other youth who have been through or are currently experiencing child protective services or the juvenile justice system. Jesús has a unique perspective and is eager to not only better himself but to help others.