SEATTLE – Marguerite Casey Foundation presented 19 young community leaders with the Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty Leadership Award, in honor of their vision, passion and dedication to improving the lives of families in their communities. Each of the honorees received an award of $5,000 in recognition of their leadership.
This is the sixth year that Marguerite Casey Foundation has presented the Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty awards. The award is named for Sargent Shriver, architect of the War on Poverty and visionary leader of Head Start, Peace Corps, Job Corps and VISTA, who worked throughout his life to provide opportunities for people to lift themselves out of poverty.
Each of the 19 Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty has shown resolve and courage in standing up for those who are often neglected by society: the homeless, immigrant families, farmworkers, and students. Rather than waiting for change to happen, this year’s honorees are taking action to reform school discipline policies, protect funding for their schools, support early education and make their neighborhoods cleaner and safer.
Luz Vega-Marquis, CEO and president of Marguerite Casey Foundation, said of the honorees: “These young people are inspirations to us all. Their activism – rooted in their own personal experiences — reminds us that each of us can make a difference by simply standing up for what is right and what is needed in our communities. By stepping up to remake their communities and their world, each of them is carrying on the legacy of Sargent Shriver.”
See a listing of past winners at our website. Learn more about previous Shriver award honorees in the Equal Voice News series America’s Next Leaders.
2017 Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty
Anique Gichanga was born and raised in Oakland, California and is a youth member leader of the Black Organizing Project. In the seventh grade, Anique joined Youth Organizing Leadership Opportunity (YOLO) where she learned the fundamentals of organizing and advocacy. In addition to participating in a in afterschool programs like BOP’s after school political education classes, community organizations and advocating for student rights at her school, Anique is a foster youth that fully supports herself though her job at McDonald’s. Anique has worked closely with BOP’s lead organizer in several spaces in their Bettering Our Schools Systems Campaign, to monitor student referrals to police, develop strategy and ensure that the policies won are implemented.
Dylan Brown is a local advocacy intern at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, CA. His primary focus at Ella Baker Center is to support the grassroots base-building of directly impacted families in Alameda County. Since the start of his internship in September 2016, Dylan has conducted regular outreach in front of Alameda’s county jails and courthouses, used his outreach efforts to support Ella Baker Center’s Bail Reform campaign, and supported ongoing research to study housing barriers families impacted by the criminal justice system face. In addition to this work, Dylan founded the on-campus “Solidarity no Solitary” student organization that aims to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline through praxis in education and organizing.
Rosie Balberan was born and raised in Southeast San Francisco and is an advocate and youth organizer at Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth. Rosie’s first organizing leadership role was in middle school when she helped fundraise for the people of Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010. She joined Youth Making a Change – Coleman’s youth organizing project in freshman year and steadily rose through the ranks and is now a full staff member as an AmeriCorps Fellow. Rosie has represented Coleman in national alliances, including the national convenings of Dignity in Schools Campaign and the Alliance for Education Justice. This past May, Rosie participated in a Health Justice delegation to Cuba where she learned about the Cuban health care system and other related systems. She has a personal interest in health justice and wellness, trauma and resiliency and is eager to apply what she observed and learned in Cuba to develop awareness in her community.
Tonii Magitt joined Communities United in 2015 after budgets cuts across the school district were mostly affecting librarians in community high schools. He organized a 150 student-led boycott to bring public attention to how his school and others in the district were being targeted by these budget cuts to teacher positions. While at Communities United, Tonii found organizing and activism as a new medium to express his voice. He has logged in more than 400 hours of volunteer work, including partnering with a local university to organize a community conversation on the perception of Black leaders and defining what Black leadership looked in the past compared to how it looks today. The goal was to give his peers and the community time to discuss those Black leaders lost in history that might not have been mentioned in the textbooks.
Reyes Figueroa has been marching to Tallahassee with his grandma and the crew from Farmworkers Self Help since he was 3 years old. Today, he is a member of Dade City Youth Council where he gets experience in local government and he gets to create events to bring his community together. Reyes has run for student council of his high school and has won three years in a row. Reyes has broken barriers as the only Mexican/American student to be elected for student council in what is believed to be a very racist high school. As a student leader, Reyes has been able to raise funds and to donate supplies for students in need. As a member of his community, Reyes volunteers at a food bank with Farmworkers Self Help during the holiday season to distribute presents to low income children in his community.
When Blanca Limas Alamillo was 3 years old, she was already going to the Capitol with her mother, a Farmworkers Self Help staff member. Now 16 years old, Blanca still goes to Tallahassee with FSH youth, and throughout her time at FSH, has learned how to organize, how to stand up for her rights and the rights of others and how to raise her voice. As part of the youth group Teen Dream Team, she has been to Washington DC to demonstrate with other teenagers and participated in immigration meetings, health meetings, youth camps, community clean ups and community events.
Mia Speckled Rock is a junior at Pojoaque Valley High School and began her relationship with Tewa Women United when she was in the 8th grade as a youth participant in the A’Gin Healthy Sexuality and Body Sovereignty Project (A’Gin Project.) The A’Gin Project work within the schools to provide a culturally adapted and enhanced comprehensive reproductive healthy curriculum to native American students. She continues to be an active member of the A’Gin Project’s youth facilitators group and is also a member of a school-based group called Natural Helpers, which works on youth suicide prevention amongst peers. As an integral part of Natural Helpers, Mia reaches out to community organizations to provide families with resources and information on services in the area.
Katherine Villegas was born into a family of activists, as the child of a long-time organizer with La Mujer Obrera, and has grown-up surrounded by strong community leaders. Katherine has worked organizing a youth group for Tierra es Vida, a community farm to learn how to grow food and urge her community to cultivate healthier eating habits, inspired by a trip to the Food Justice Conference in California where she learned about the food industry. In addition to her work with the farm, Katherine is a student journalist writing for her school newspaper, and questioning how the decisions the school board is making affects students. She plans to study journalism in college to incorporate her activism to her profession.
Laura Greenfield is a young farmer, cartographer, activist and a Kentuckians for the Commonwealth member, strongly committed to protecting and uplifting vulnerable people and communities. She initially connected with KFTC through the issue of gentrification. AS a geography student at the University of Kentucky, Laura sought to apply her training and skills to pinpoint the areas of Lexington most vulnerable to gentrification. In 2016, Laura became involved in KFTC’s Empower Kentucky project, which aimed at developing an energy plan that met and exceeded the requirements of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. She managed the work team and authored the final report, while collaborating with other KFTC members to strengthen and deepen the approach to doing environmental justice for Kentucky. In addition to her environmental justice work, Laura has worked on immigration reform and immigration rights, spearheading a letter writing campaign to Congress. Laura also runs her family farm.
Magdalynne Bruckner first joined the NAACP as a participant of the Youth Council. She quickly became a leader, and by her second year, she was elected President. She has spearheaded many projects involving youth mentorship in her community, creating a “Do Not Stand Still” walk to draw attention to the need to help close the achievement gap amongst African Americans and Latino students in her community. She also co-chaired a mentoring group for low income students and tutored students at the middle school – which houses a very large population of economically disadvantaged Hispanic and African American population – taking the group from failing to exceeding in all of their course work. Magdalynne is driven to serve the needs of her community, and continues to support the economically-deprived while in college.
Julie Jent is a member of the National Council of Young Leaders, and has been advocating nationally for the past 4 years to promote a broad agenda for change. She is most passionate about making sure that special attention is given to the needs of rural communities for low-cost public transportation, broadband access and rights to natural resources, including water. As a member of Opportunity Youth United, she has been working to recruit opportunity youth to be a part of the movement and organizing to create an Opportunity Youth United Community Action Team. Julie is a Model Africa Union Delegate, serves as Senior Class President and has served on both the Philanthropy Committee and the Student Alumni Council at her school. She plans to open a Community Wellness Center in her hometown in an effort to break the cycle of poverty, one young person at a time.
Nayim Islam has been a youth leader of United We Dream since 2013, and currently serves in UWD’s National Leadership Council as a representative of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM). Nayim actively works to advocate, defend and improved the lives of his immigrant South Asian community in Brooklyn. Through his fellowship at DRUM, Nayim researched businesses, owners and working conditions in Brooklyn and created a business map to inform the organization’s efforts to promote economic justice and prevent wage theft and worker abuse. In 2016, Nayim joined DRUM as the Brooklyn Community Organizer and Immigrant Rights Organizer, and is responsible for coordinating the organization’s Worker’s Clinic where workers who have experienced wage theft, abuse or mistreatment in their workplace can seek free legal help, as well as the Immigrant Rights Clinic, to help immigrants find eligible forms of relief for free. In response to the anti-immigrant threat in recent months, Nayim helped launch Brooklyn’s Hate Free Zone campaign that seeks to keep communities safe at the local level without the need of local enforcement, while respecting the humanity of everybody in the community.
Ramses Long, 22 – Baltimore, Maryland
Nominated by The Choice Program at UMBC
Ramses Long recently graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology. He partnered with Choice Program AmeriCorps Community Service Learning Fellows to co-found a student organization called Charm City Connection to help close achievement gaps for Baltimore City youth by bridging UMBC’s campus to Baltimore City and coordinating volunteer opportunities with schools and community centers. In 2016, Charm City Connection went on to “adopt” the afterschool mentoring programing one day a week at Excel Academy (for over-aged and under-credited students) for that academic year and became the Student Coordinator of the Choice Education Excel Academy after-school program. In addition to his work at Charm City Connection, Ramses is a member of UMBC’s P-14 Schools, Family and Community Connections group, whose mission is to coordinate and maximize the impact of campus engagement with preK-14 educational organizations in the Greater Baltimore region.
Craig Minor became involved with Community Law in Action in the 10th grade, during the organization’s winter mock trial competition. As a student attending Baltimore City Public Schools, Craig has seen how the system is failing his peers. Because of this, he believed firmly in being the change he wants to see in the world. Craig is attending the Community College of Baltimore County to obtain a paralegal degree and will continue on to a four-year college to gain a law degree. He wishes to be an attorney in Baltimore City that works to educate and inspire youth to be all that they can be.
Neyo Adekoya completed a year as a Choice Program AmeriCorps Community Service Learning Fellow during the 2015-16 academic year at a Baltimore City school and served as an advocate by offering the administration positive alternatives to suspensions and office referrals. Outside of school, Neyo played an active role in the community and was part of a three-person team that completed nearly 10,000 home visits over the course of a year to build strong relationships with youth and families, connecting them to opportunities in both college exposure and workforce development. Neyo was a key facilitator in “Speak Truth to Power,” a project sponsored by Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights where he taught youth what it means to be a human rights defender. He is also an active leader in Youth in Action movement, a youth-led movement that uses art as a vehicle for youth voice.
Melanie Alvarez joined United Students (a youth component of InnerCity Struggle) at her high school in East Los Angeles. United Students focuses on the leadership development of youth and the discussion of issues students and community members face, while also offering solutions based on experiences. In November 2016, Melanie signed up for InnerCity Struggle’s Get Out the Vote events, where she knocked on doors to educate neighbors about the importance of voting. Melanie chose to use her voice to talk to people about voting and the impact that elections have on her and future generations. During this time, Melanie reinforced her lifelong goal of becoming a lawyer. As a result of her civic duty work, Melanie was asked to co-facilitate Restorative Justice Circles in her school, with students who are having or have experienced difficulty within school and in community.
Panchito Martinez has been working on environmental justice issues that are affecting his community in Barrio Logan, San Diego. Panchito has participated in the Environmental Health Coalition’s “United to Vote” voter engagement campaigns and has used his first-hand experience with asthma to ask the Port of San Diego Commissioners to adopt a more responsible and sustainable expansion plan that leads to economic growth with less pollution and less impact on low-income families in his community. Panchito is the first in his immediate family to graduate high school and to enroll in a four-year college and plays a key role in Barrio Logan College Institute’s Executive Director’s Leadership Council that works to address issues affecting youth in the community. He is working at BLCI as the Leadership Programs Specialist to design and implement leadership development programs for the organization. He is studying philosophy, sociology and psychology at San Diego State University.
Maria Guadalupe Perez-Sarmiento has been part of the ARISE community since she was in preschool. As a member of the ARISE family, Maria organized the #StopTheSmell campaign with other ARISE youth leaders that aimed at shutting down a sewage treatment plant that was right amid low-income neighborhoods. Due to her work, she offered a presentation on environmental racism at the United Nations and at the World Meeting of Popular Movements. Her leadership is evident through teaching citizenship classes and organizing Get out the Vote campaigns in the colonias, showing a broad involvement with social justice and civic engagement. Her drive to be a role model for her family and community manifests in her dream to attend college to become a nurse.
Nancy Deere-Turney was selected by the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) to join the 2017 Champions for Change class. Champions for Change identifies and supports young Native leaders by highlighting their success, and providing opportunities for them to create further positive change in their communities. As a Champion for Change, Nancy has a national platform to discuss Native youth priorities, explore policy priorities impacting Indian Country, exchange resources and opportunities and share ideas for solutions. In addition to her work with CNAY, Nancy founded a cultural preservation initiative called the Youth Enrichment Camp, which is hosted at a traditional roundhouse on her family’s land. It brings together youth of all ages to learn about the importance of culture and the ways in which culture can be used to combat suicide and other issues Native youth are facing. Through her work with youth in this camp, she has become an influential leader among her peers and a persistent advocate in her tribe with plans to run for tribal elected office in the future.
Marguerite Casey Foundation is dedicated to creating, through the Equal Voice Network, a national movement of low-income families advocating on their own behalf for social and economic policies that strengthen families and communities.
For more information, contact Marguerite Casey Foundation at 206-691 3134