Our Youth Leaders
We believe that our communities must reflect the needs, values, and priorities of young people, and young people’s civic engagement is essential to building equitable systems.
Our Youth Leaders play a key role at NMCAN by engaging peers and the community in systems and policy change. From participating in committees with partner organizations, speaking on panels and presenting at conferences, leading skill-building workshops, and supporting peers in getting involved in systems change work, these leaders are hard at work creating positive change in our community.
Current Youth Leaders
Felicia is a 20-year-old young advocate that has been through the foster care system in New Mexico. Felicia’s experience in foster care has guided her to advocate for systemic change. After aging out of foster care, she joined NMCAN Youth Leaders in an effort to use her lived experiences to improve the child welfare system and make it better for future foster kids.
Shaniah is a youth advocate with NMCAN. She was in and out of foster care for nearly 11 years of her young life until she aged out at 18. During her time in foster care, she was placed in multiple homes and shelters. Shaniah is now enrolled at the University of New Mexico working towards a bachelor’s degree in business, while also working full-time. She is also developing her skills to be a strong advocate for children, young people, and families affected by foster care and the system itself. She is a member of the Office of Family Representation and Advocacy Commission.
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. She is a Jim Casey Young Fellow and is part of nationwide advocacy groups. Alyssa has advocated for the creation of the Office of Family Representation and Advocacy, the foster youth tax credit, expansion of the tuition waiver for foster youth, and the Fostering Connections Act, which extends support for young people ages 18-21. She is a member of the New Mexico Supreme Court’s Family Representation Commission and the Children’s Law Institute planning committee. In addition to her advocacy, Alyssa is working, writing poetry, and being an incredible mother to her three sons.
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, a participant in Making Connections: International District, part of Young Men of Color, and a Jim Casey Young Fellow. Andrew has spent the last four years in community organizing and politics, including working for Congresswoman Debra Haaland on Capitol Hill in the summer of 2019. 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.”
Elijah was in and out of foster care from the age of 12 until he aged out at 18. Originally from Orlando, Florida, Elijah has lived in many states, but has been in New Mexico for a number of years and has built community and connections here. He recently earned his GED and then completed a trade program at Central New Mexico Community College. He is happily married with three sons and enjoys playing video games.
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 that focuses on children’s mental health.
Micaela is a young mother of three. She is a Youth Leader with NMCAN where she advocates for systemic changes to support families. She successfully advocated for the first foster youth employer tax credit in the country, the extension of foster care, and the required rewarding of partial credits for work completed in previous schools. She has also participated in advocacy against sex trafficking. She has presented on panels about youth engagement in legislative advocacy, the needs of young parents, youth in court, education and employment for foster youth, and how systems can better serve youth. Micaela was unsheltered for three years and lived in shelters in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos. From ages six to 11, she had violent experiences in foster care and was adopted at the age of 11, but ended up back in care and aged out of the system. Micaela hopes to share her voice and make a difference in the world.
Monica is from Roswell, NM and is a mother of three. She was in foster care for four years until she aged out at 18. Monica has a desire to improve the foster care system and has recently begun speaking publicly about her experiences in care and as a successfully reunified parent. She is also a member of the Family Representation Task Force. It is important to Monica that quality resources and supports are available to families and young people in New Mexico’s rural communities.
Quirn goes by “Q” for short and prefers he/him pronouns. He was born and raised in Albuquerque, NM. As the oldest brother of four, he had to help parent his younger sisters while still very young himself. He has experience with youth engagement including college prep programs and other supportive roles involving youth. His main passion stems from music. Dancing in his free time, slowly honing his skills, though it may not always be public. He uses dancing as a way of healing his soul – showing his emotions which cannot always be expressed through spoken words alone, for he tends to be introverted when you first meet him.
Rochelle spent two and a half years in foster care and has spent more than nine years advocating for positive change in the state’s child welfare system. She is a Youth Leader with NMCAN and a former member of LUVYA. In 2015, she committed her time and expertise to formulate the state’s Prudent Parenting Standard and policies to support normalizing the foster care experience. Rochelle participated in the 2016 National Youth Leadership Institute led by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative and Annie E. Casey Foundation. She is an effective public speaker who has participated in several youth panels and conferences addressing child welfare issues. Rochelle is passionate about maintaining sibling connections and achieving permanency for foster youth and is concerned that the number of available foster homes is insufficient.
Yá’át’ééh! Siihasin Hope (They/Them) is a Diné (Navajo) Two-spirit Femme and Indigenous Queer Feminist. Hope graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2019 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Native American Studies. They are a Water Protector with the Giniw Collective, an Indigenous Women and Two-Spirit-led resistance collective to defend Mother Earth and live in balance, rising up unafraid with their prayers into action. They are a Co-Founder of The Red Nation, a Native liberation grassroots organization, and Co-Founder of Beyond Borders Caucus which serves as a vehicle for anti-colonial migrant justice organizing. Hope has been organizing in Tiwa Territories (Albuquerque) communities since they were 17 years old living on the streets. Hope has partnered with NMCAN since they lived on the streets to ensure that they are working to change the child welfare system through sharing their life experiences. Hope experienced cycles of homelessness for several years as a youth, and survived sexual violence and systemic violence. This has shaped their passion for organizing and their lens on the intersections of racism, colonialism, capitalism, border imperialism, patriarchy, and violence. Hope believes that what happens to the land happens to our bodies and that the global struggle for Indigenous liberation is a movement for everyone. Ahéhee.
Past Youth Leaders