Inside MCF

Introducing the 2018 Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors

August 20, 2018

Marguerite Casey Foundation introduces the 2018 Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty awardees, honored for their vision, passion, and dedication to improving the lives of families in their communities.

SEATTLE – Marguerite Casey Foundation presented 18 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 seventh 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 18 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, among others. Rather than waiting for change to happen, this year’s honorees are taking action to reform school discipline policies, protect immigrants and refugee rights, support civic engagement, 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. The Shriver Youth Warriors amaze me every year. They are a wonderful group of young people we want to support and help grow, and the Marguerite Casey Foundation is committed to their development. 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 on our website.

Caitlin Wicks, 20
Nominated by Mississippi Equal Voice Network

Caitlin has been an active member of Tunica Teens in Action for eleven years, serving as a Youth Intern Leader and a recruiter. She is passionate about education reform with an emphasis on special needs and support for students with disabilities. Caitlin has gained experience in government from multiple angles, including serving as a Mississippi Legislative Senate Page under Senator Robert Jackson and advocating to defeat House Bill 957, which would have negatively impacted special needs students in public schools. Having overcome several personal health obstacles, including eye transplants and Crohn’s disease, Caitlin’s life goal is to reach and inspire people with disabilities to keep moving forward and never give up. Currently, Caitlin is studying to be an interpreter and a speech specialist at Jackson State University.

Anthony Tamez, 18
Nominated by Native Voice Network

Anthony’s background as a Cree and Lakota has influenced his efforts to serve his community in Chicago. Through land-based education, Anthony works to ensure that the community does not lose its connection to the land and helps community members plant medicine gardens in their own backyards to maintain that connection. Anthony began his involvement with Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) in 2015, serving as a Youth Ambassador for President Obama’s Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative. In 2018, he was recognized by CNAY as a Champion for Change for his initiative aimed at confronting the misconceptions about Native peoples in Chicago and around the country and he currently services on CNAY’s Youth Advisory Board. Anthony is apprenticing with a Native photojournalist to learn how to leverage photography and filmmaking to tell Native stories about the work urban Native youth are doing in Chicago.

Yahaira Carreras-Cubillas, 19
Nominated by Equal Voice New Mexico

Yahaira first joined the SouthWest Organizing Project’s Con Mujeres while in high school with a specific interest in exploring the intersections of substance abuse and mental health. Before joining SWOP, Yahaira completed an internship with a women’s reproductive health organization called Young Women United where she worked as a researcher and advocate for/with the LGBTQ communities. Yahaira was key in the planning, facilitation and execution of the 2018 Women’s March in Albuquerque. She worked to select and schedule over 52 speakers, most of them youth and women of color, for the 5,000 person rally. She works with Albuquerque youth leaders organizing post rally challenges of the March For Our Lives movement. Since 2017, Yahaira has been a work-study student at Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) and serves as a youth intern at SWOP.

Evely Gomez-Jarquin, 20
Nominated by Equal Voice for Change in the Central Valley 

Evely has been volunteering since the age of 8, when she started distributing flyers for the Geulaguetza California Festival, an annual festival that honors the heritage of indigenous people in Central California. At the age of 17, she became the festival’s volunteer coordinator, and later emceed the event and was on the planning and development team. She recently completed a fellowship at NOPAL (Neighborhoods Owning Power, Action, and Leadership), a regional community-campus partnership increasing young adult civic engagement around social justice issues through culturally rooted organizing and participatory action research. Currently, Evely serves as an intern for CVIIC (Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative,) a collaborative effort that provides support and creates opportunities for the integration of immigrants.

Jordan Harper, 20
Nominated by The Choice Program at UMBC

Jordan is a University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) student and intern for Student Life participating in the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) project. The project seeks to remove racial hierarchies as they exist in a variety of sectors, including the economy and the racially unjust effects of poverty. He has become the leader of the TRHT initiative on campus, organizing his peers to both think through what this work means for UMBC and its surrounding communities, and gathering the skills and tools he needs to move the initiative into action during the next school year.


Miguel Hernandez, 19
Nominated by Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network

Miguel has been a part of Proyecto Juan Diego for almost 10 years, and became one of the first members of the Border Youth Program (BYP). He is one of the longest standing members of this youth organization and a clear leader in the program. As a participant of the BYP, he actively fought (and ultimately won) for both a Smoking Ban and a Plastic Bag Ban in the city of Brownsville, that resulted in city wide bans and are now used as model policies for other communities looking to pass ordinances to improve community quality of life for all residents. Miguel is studying to be a teacher and was recently deputized as a voter registrar so that he can personally register his community to vote.

Sydney Hill, 18
Nominated by The Choice Program at UMBC

Sydney is an active youth leader in Baltimore City, serving as Vice Chair on the Baltimore City Health Department’s Youth Health and Wellness Advisory Board where she works with the department’s Maternal and Child Health Division to address teen suicide and child mortality. Sydney plays an active role as a peer educator, youth leader and active member promoting positive youth voice in Baltimore City Public Schools. She was recently asked to serve as a youth advisor for the Bloomberg American Health Initiative at John Hopkins School of Public Health, focusing on opportunity youth and prioritizing their needs in adverse environments. At the moment, Sydney is being trained to serve as a data collector on a small study focused on food instability and will be facilitating focus groups to understand and address food deserts and communities with unstable food sources.

Emmanuel “E-Man” Marquez, 17
Nominated by El Paso Equal Voice Network

Emmanuel is an organizer for youth group on his high school campus, and launched Bowie Lives Matter in order to address the toxic conditions at Bowie High School. As an athlete, he attests to the dangers and conditions he faces each day on the field, since Bowie High School sits in one of the most contaminated areas in the city of El Paso. Alongside other students, including Familias Unidas del Chamizal and his mother, Isela, E-Man stood up to El Paso Independent School District school board to address his concerns and continues to fight for his school and the students’ concerns, citing environmental racism.


Brandon Najera, 17
Nominated by Equal Voice for Southern California Families Alliance

Brandon is a member of United Students, the youth organizing arm of InnerCity Struggle. After a series of unfortunate events, Brandon joined AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), a college-bound program that provides extra academic support to students. Through AVID, Brandon was encouraged to apply to the most rigorous academic program at his high school, the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. He worked with his peers in demanding wellness/holistic services and positive school climate practices at his high school, after experiencing random searches, tardy sweeps, and in-school detention. Brandon used his organizing skills to plan a walk out across the Los Angeles Unified School District, which caused the school board to pass resolutions that limited cooperation with immigration law enforcement and committed to supporting undocumented and Muslim students. Brandon also represents InnerCity Struggle in the Brothers, Sons, and Selves (BSS) coalition to continue fighting for just and equitable change.

Carlos Yanez Navarro, 18
Nominated by Arizona Equal Voice Network 

Carlos works with Promise Arizona to identify, train and direct leadership teams in communities in the east valley of Phoenix, communities that have growing numbers of Latinos. He is Field Director for Mesa, Tempe and Guadalupe, tasked with increasing the number of voter registrations in those areas. While in high school, Carlos volunteered at a clinic, providing interpreter services for patients and their families, and translated for community doctors at the clinic. He is currently attending Arizona State University and received a full scholarship, which has allowed him to focus his time on giving back to his community instead of having to work to pay for school.


Cheyenne Little Eagle Phoenix, 23
Nominated by Native Voice Network

Cheyenne is Diné and Northern Paiute, born and raised in Los Angeles. Cheyenne has been an active youth voice in the Los Angeles American Indian/Alaska Native community since she was in middle school, and first became active on the student council of United American Indian Involvement, the largest Native nonprofit in the country. Cheyenne is the co-founder of the Red Earth Defense, an active, indigenous-led, inclusive group focused on indigenous and marginalized community issues within and beyond the western region. She has also been a canvasser with the California Native Vote Project, where she has focused on pre-registering and registering Native youth to vote. Currently, Cheyenne is a student at Long Beach City College, majoring in Sociology.

Freedom Fox Richardson, 18
Nominated by Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children

Freedom has been a part of FFLIC’s membership for the past 3 years and through FFLIC’s leadership development and mentoring has become an advocate supporting the organization’s efforts to ensure better life outcomes for children who are directly and indirectly impacted by the mass incarceration system. He has taken the lead in organizing the Christmas campaign to show love and support to children who are incarcerated on one of the most celebrated holidays of the year. He is a Political Science major at Loyola University of New Orleans, and was recently elected Senator-at-Large at Loyola. He plans to attend law school to make certain that children of incarcerated parents are more likely to graduate high school and college and fighting the school-to-prison pipeline.

Alejandra Salinas, 24
Nominated by Equal Voice for Rural Florida

Alejandra has been organizing with Hope CommUnity Center and was very active in canvasing during the 2016 elections. Alejandra has been also organizing around DACA: she has led Know Your Rights trainings, been an organizer on Safety Planning Clinics for undocumented families and an active spokesperson for the movement for Immigration Reform, protection of DACA and calling for a clean Dream Act. In addition, Alejandra participates in the Trust Act Coalition, a group of more than 30 organizations fighting to get the city of Orlando to pass the Trust Act to protect undocumented immigrants from being targeted by local police or other government departments because of their immigration status.

Deveraux Smith, 23
Nominated by The Choice Program at UMBC

Deveraux serves as the Executive Director of a program called Kids Eat Free, that aims at changing lives by providing nutritious food to children and families. Under his leadership, Kids Eat Free has filled 10,000 backpacks with food and filled two 20-foot long truck trailers. Since the age of 9, Deveraux has been volunteering at a homeless shelter in Washington, DC and has planned homeless awareness initiatives that connect those in politics, academia, business, and non profits with community members to address homelessness within the community. He has worked to build relationships on campus and engage with other students to address food insecurity and other challenges by providing access to healthy food and other essential supplies to students. He recently graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a Masters in Applied Sociology (and a 3.4 GPA).

Shane Wilcher, 17
Nominated by Kentucky Coalition

Shane has been a part of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth his entire life. He grew up attending the annual meetings and local community events with his mother. Shane is a senior in high school and is a fierce advocate for creating more inclusive spaces for young people within KFTC and his community. Shane was selected as part of the initial cohort of the KFTC Organizing Academy, where he has learned to build relationships with fellow students and community members, how to talk with decision-makers about issues that are important to him, and how to canvas and register voters. Following the Parkland school shooting, Shane organized a school walkout to address the issue of gun violence in schools. As a member of the Gay Straight Alliance at his high school, he has been instrumental in organizing group conversations after the 2016 elections where students could come together in a safe environment and share their feelings in the new and unknown political landscape.

Erica Davis, 24
Nominated by Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM)

Erica was an intern at SOCM for six months in 2015. While she was an intern, she researched coal severance taxes and how they could be used to bring economic development funds into coalfield communities. Through outreach and research, Erica learned that with the decline of coal mining, the amount funds received from coal severance taxes was dwindling. Because of Erica’s work, five counties have passed resolutions in favor of changing the gas and oil severance tax to bring more money directly to counties, and a bill with the same intent was introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly by coalfield representatives. Erica is currently attending law school but remains active in SOCM working on issues from water quality to economic transition.

Leroy Gatlin, 23
Nominated by the Bay Area Equal Voice Network

Leroy has been a part of Causa Justa :: Just Cause since the summer of 2017, when he participated in a Know Your Rights workshop at San Francisco City College. He first joined CJJC through the organization’s 2.5-month youth political education and leadership program, Education for Liberation Summer program (E4LS) and he has since become an active member in the Youth in Power (YIP). Both programs empower low-income Latino and Black youth to understand root causes of the problems that impact their lives and experiences of poverty, to know their rights, and to organize their families and communities to take strategic action to change the conditions they experience. He has been instrumental in creating a rapid response youth network as a result of the immigration raids in the Bay Area. Alongside other youth, he has recruited and trained youth to keep each other safe during direct actions and to speak out publicly.

A youth from San Diego, CA
Nominated by San Diego Equal Voice Network

This individual is a homeless youth that resides in the San Diego LGBT Center’s Youth Housing Project, a low income housing assistance program for homeless LGBT youth in San Diego. They started organizing as a teenager with Queer student organizing. They participated and started a successful campaign for a safer sex education program at the San Diego Jobs Corps Center. They are a member of the Board of Directors as well as the Art Show Co-Coordinator at The Brown Building in San Diego, planning and running monthly art shows that center the work and voices of the queer and transgender communities, femme-identified and feminized peoples and communities of color. They have also worked with Breaking the Ban, a bi-monthly food service that protested an unjust food sharing ban in the city of El Cajon targeting houseless communities. They have worked with local QTPOC (queer, transgender people of color) to support survivors of domestic violence.

Introducing the 2018 Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors