Marguerite Casey Foundation introduces the 2019 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 20 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 eighth year that Marguerite Casey Foundation has presented the Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty awards. The award is named for Sargent Shriver, who worked throughout his life to provide opportunities for people to lift themselves out of poverty. Shriver is the architect of the War on Poverty and visionary leader of Head Start, Peace Corps, Job Corps and VISTA.
Each of the 20 Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors has shown resolve and courage in standing up for those who are often neglected by society: the homeless, immigrant families, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and students and youth, among others. This year’s honorees are proactive in their efforts to encourage youth civic engagement, reform juvenile justice, education and healthcare systems, advocate for environmental justice, organize for immigrant and undocumented communities and more.
Luz Vega-Marquis, CEO and President of Marguerite Casey Foundation, said of the honorees: “This year’s Youth Warriors prove to us all that you can make a difference in your community at any age. We are so inspired by these organizers and their willingness to make change in the areas that affect them personally and affect their families. These are young people who come from what are sometimes difficult circumstances and bloom into active leaders in their community, helping to reshape those communities and our society overall. We’re so proud to see the legacy of Sargent Shriver continue on in each of them.”
See a listing of past winners on our website.
Amina Henderson, 21
Nominated by Chicago Equal Voice Network
Amina Henderson, a member of Communities United, began her community involvement work with Voices of Youth in Chicago Education in her hometown. She has developed into a youth organizer passionate about addressing mental health in communities nationwide that are navigating violence. Together with youth activists from Parkland, Florida, and the March for Our Lives movement, she helped form a new advocacy group, Good Kids Mad City, designed to raise public awareness and fuel policy changes around the systemic causes of violence. Amina delivered the closing remarks at the Chicago March for Our Lives rally, where she highlighted experiences of urban youths of color with gun violence. Amina helped launch the Rethinking Safety campaign, which addresses the need for increased access to mental health resources in schools. Amina is committed to forming a powerful, shared narrative led by youth of color that will uplift survivor experiences and address violence at its roots – and in Chicago’s juvenile justice system. She is also pursuing a BA in Juvenile Justice and Political Science.
James Collins, 21
Nominated by Chicago Equal Voice Network
James Collins is a 2018 graduate of Inner City Muslim Action Network’s (IMAN) Green Re-Entry Program and youth leader from Chicago. After navigating the juvenile justice system from within, James earned a diploma through IMAN’s program and renewed his investments and participation in his community. His organic leadership skills and sense of accountability allow him to engage with his community with sincerity, and he is actively engaged in work with IMAN around police accountability and parole reform. James is also working in his community to support kids who are neglected. James intends to further his education by studying business management, and he wants to continue giving back to his community by supporting back-to-school programs and youth game nights.
Lizbeth Labra Munoz, 17
Nominated by The Choice Program at UMBC
Lizbeth Labra Munoz participated in the Path College Access Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), in 2018. The program examines college access as an issue of social justice and provides participants with skills-building and application support. Lizbeth stepped into leadership roles throughout the year, including organizing a College Night where Baltimore youth could meet college students for a shared night of learning and cultural experiences. At the event, Lizbeth and her peers presented a research project they’d conducted on the construction of a new apartment building in West Baltimore and the impact of gentrification on the present community. Lizbeth will attend UMBC and she hopes to continue to do anti-poverty work in Baltimore’s immigrant communities. She is passionate about continuing college access work in her community as well.
Quincy Walker, 16
Nominated by Native Voice Network
Quincy Walker, a junior at Native American Community Academy (NACA) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is dedicated to serving his multi-faceted community and representing his Black, Japanese and Mexican-Irish cultures with pride. Quincy lives in Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico, and he has interned with several local, regional and national organizations, including NACA’s Hiyupo Alliance and Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBKA). He supports many nonprofit and community-led organizations and is an active member of the ongoing MBKA Youth Advisory Council. He also supports the City of Albuquerque’s work to provide resources for boys and young men of color. Quincy has a personal passion for fighting domestic poverty through community service and organizing. He recently organized an initiative in his community to provide water to those experiencing homelessness, and he plans to expand his “Hydrating the Homeless” project to include new partners, as well as additional resources and provisions including fresh fruit.
Stephen Bruce, 21
Nominated by Opportunity Youth United
Stephen Bruce was appointed Community Leader for Opportunity Youth United in 2018. He previously participated in a group mentoring program with Public Allies Chicago, where he shined as a dedicated mentor to students of color from majority Black and Latinx Chicago schools in neighborhoods heavily impacted by violence. He is passionate about being a positive role model for the students he mentors through Public Allies Chicago and Spark Chicago. Stephen’s personal experiences in the foster care system helped motivate him to rise into leadership and change-agent roles, and he is passionate about helping other young people raised in poverty, as well as those who don’t come from stable homes. Stephen has participated in many youth-focused community organizations and efforts to sway policy in support of pathways out of poverty for youth in Chicago. He also started his own after-school program, Getting Involved, to engage young people in extra-curricular activities and local service projects of their own design. Stephen plans to continue growing this program with funds from this award.
Lydia Williams, 17
Nominated by Alabama Equal Voice Network
Lydia Williams is from Montgomery, Alabama, and recently participated in a Racial Healing and Reconciliation Community Learning forum coordinated by the Alabama Institute for Social Justice (AISJ). After her experience sharing at the forum, she began volunteering with AISJ as a youth activist. Lydia was inspired to start organizing after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and does activism work around gun control, environmental inequity and poverty in her community. Lydia is also adamant about learning more about the nature of activism itself, having developed a mentor relationship with Dr. Earnest “Rip” Patton, a Freedom Rider and member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the Civil Rights era. Lydia will attend Alabama A&M University. As a future environmentalist, she is keenly aware of environmental racism and how it impacts African-American communities in Alabama. She plans to use award funds to create a sustainable garden for youth to address food deserts in impoverished communities.
Hunter Malone, 21
Nominated by Kentucky Coalition
Hunter Malone is a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC) and a senior at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky. As a KFTC member, Hunter has been instrumental in the Madison Country chapter Action for Democracy work, leading action on the local voter guide and engaging and educating the community about the election. He is also an advocate for LGBTQIA+ visibility within the Berea College community and helped organize the first Pride events on campus. Though Hunter had to navigate animosity towards the celebrations from the broader community during this process, he successfully helped organize a week of events, including a 5k, a drag show, an art and healing night, a Queerness Through the Ages panel discussion and a parade. Demonstrating both the Berea community’s support and love for LGBTQIA+ folks and the intersectional nature of queer identity was very important to Hunter and other event organizers. In the spring, Hunter plans to continue his education towards a Master of Divinity; he will also continue his advocacy for queer youth, especially those from marginalized and rural areas. He intends to use award funds to expand Berea Pride celebrations, organize events and political action rallies, and establish a community center.
Karnesha Terry, 23
Nominated by Mississippi Equal Voice Network
Karnesha Terry is dedicated to working with youth and other members of her communities in Tunica and Jackson, Mississippi – and she’s especially committed to the Tunica Teen in Action (TIA), a youth leadership-development organization. Currently studying English education at Tougaloo College, Karnesha supports the Tunica TIA organization through volunteer tutoring, chaperoning events, implementing new study techniques and planning additional helpful events for the students. After college, Karnesha plans to return to Tunica to continue focusing on empowering and organizing within her local community as well as working with youth through Tunica TIA. She also plans to start a mentoring program for girls in her community, centered on sex education and academic excellence, with other components that support participants with job applications and finances. Karnesha would like to apply the Tunica TIA model, centered on intergenerational community organizing, to her other activism and network-building. She wants to empower families within her community and is driven to use education as a pathway out of poverty.
Marion Smith III, 17
Nominated by Rural Community Alliance
An inaugural member of the Rural Community Alliance (RCA) Youth Network advisory council, Marion Smith is a young man who cares deeply for his Parkin, Arkansas, community. He understands the importance of rural schools, many of which are being closed due to consolidation. This interrupts income for local families, and many teens lose the sense of community identity and pride that their schools provide. Marion will play a major role in planning the first Youth Network Conference with the Rural Community Alliance in 2019. Marion is an active youth leader in his school community, helping to provide resources and opportunities to his classmates. Marion serves his community through the local food bank, which he helped implement, ensuring that families and his peers have meals outside of school hours. He also helped establish his school’s student council and attends city council and school board meetings. In February, RCA held its Step Up for Public Schools Day of Action, and Marion invited and engaged his fellow student council members, making sure insights and learnings could be brought back to his school community. With award funds, Marion plans to pursue a college degree and continue advocating for small communities and rural schools.
Rita Castañon, 21
Nominated by Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition
Rita Castañon is dedicated to justice for immigrants and to her hometown community in Morristown, Tennessee. Originally from Mexico City, Rita is a youth leader and an anchor for the work Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) does in her community to support youth and adult immigrant rights. She has a personal history witnessing how deportation and family separation affect lives. Rita’s experience as a first responder during the 2017 Bean Station immigrant raids and her knowledge of Know Your Rights has proved invaluable in her community and within TIRRC. After learning about TIRRC’s tuition equity campaign, Rita organized a youth committee to start conversations around access to higher education for undocumented students. Afterwards, Rita became a leading voice within the organization. She represented TIRRC at the United We Dream National Congress in Houston, Texas, and has become a recognized leader and resource in her community. She plans to pursue her degree while continuing to advocate for tuition equality and sharing helpful information in immigrant and non-immigrant communities, such as ‘Know Your Rights’ insights and information to counter immigrant myths.
Alicia Ferrer, 17
Nominated by El Paso Equal Voice Network
Alicia Ferrer joined Familias Unidas del Chamizal alongside her mother to learn about environmental concerns arising in their community. Since then, Alicia has flourished as a committed member of the organization and as a community organizer, working toward environmental changes that directly affect her and her family. Alicia dealt with health issues during bus-hub construction on her school’s campus, and Familias Unidas del Chamizal took action to help protect students. This inspired Alicia to protest further construction of bus hubs in order to protect herself, her classmates and her community. Her advocacy with Familias Unidas has extended to more causes, including the closure of her sister’s school and lead contamination at other facilities. She is passionate about examining the discriminatory and income-related reasons state and educational institutions ignore protests coming from her largely Mexican and Spanish-speaking community. Alicia aspires to be a forensic pathologist and plans to continue her high school education and organizing, using award funds to support her family and open doors to extracurricular activities.
Andrea Guzman, 19
Nominated by Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Equal Voice Network
Andrea Guzman has been involved with ARISE and Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network since an early age, and her dedication to serving her community has grown over that time. She’s participated in civic engagement and environmental justice movements and volunteers as a tutor at the ARISE after-school program. Andrea is passionate about capturing oral histories, and her proposed project aims to celebrate the rich cultural narratives of the region’s elders by sharing them with younger generations. As a youth leader, her understanding of the experiences of immigrants will help transform what advocacy and support for the immigrant community looks like. Andrea will use her award funds to continue her project collecting and sharing oral histories, which she hopes will inspire a deeper understanding, pride, and respect of her Mexican culture. She also has plans to become a social worker after graduating from University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley.
Samantha Trujillo, 22
Nominated by Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Equal Voice Network
Samantha Trujillo has been an active participant in Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network and La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) since she was a child, following in the footsteps of family members that organized to educate and engage members of her community in Alamo, Texas. Samantha is passionate about engaging youth to change their communities, aligning with LUPE’s broader purpose to advocate for border residents to create lasting social change. Samantha’s personal interests lie in engaging her community to increase low-income Latino youth civic engagement and voter turnout and identifying the obstacles to voting in local colonias. Samantha aspires to continue following in her family’s footsteps by serving her community and engaging her peers.
Holly Xiao Lin, 19
Nominated by Bay Area Equal Voice Coalition
Holly is involved with the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) community, contributing her academic talents and leadership in several areas. During the 2016 election season, Holly canvassed to help pass Proposition 55, which would ultimately help support funding for local schools and keep college tuition down. Holly is passionate about using her voice to recruit and retain people to fight for the various causes CPA touches. She has spoken to CPA’s youth membership on civic engagement, helped empower her working-class and low-income Chinese community in San Francisco, and represented CPA at various conferences and rallies. Holly seizes opportunities to build cross-generational and cross-racial solidarity within these experiences. She recognizes how her family’s hard work allows her to pursue her college education, and with award funds she plans to help support her family and her education. She’ll also pursue additional leadership and fellowship opportunities that develop her skills as an organizer. She is personally passionate about maintaining the Ethnic, Gender and Womxn and Queer Studies program at CSU-Northridge and plans to continue to help build out Asian-American campus resources there.
Julia Allen, 16
Nominated by the Bay Area Equal Voice Coalition
Inspired to start organizing after witnessing her mother’s involvement with Parent Voices Oakland, Julia Allen is beginning to carve her own path committed to justice and equity. Due to her family’s experiences creating solutions around child care, Julia uses her voice to provide input on policy positions and advance child care, housing and education efforts in her community. She has taken on leadership roles to improve the lives of young people and families, including the creation of an online petition to recruit more Black teachers for her local schools. She also acted as a co-emcee for Parent Voices – Stand for Children Day, in 2018. This event led to more than 11,000 new childcare slots, an increase in cash aid grants, and helped make positive changes for 450,000 children in California. Julia plans to use award funds to expand the Parent Voices Oakland Leadership Academy Training program to include a cohort of Black students. Julia has a long-term goal of becoming a pediatrician.
Nouchee “Sunshine” Moua, 19
Nominated by the Central Valley Equal Voice Network
Nominated because of her deep commitment to volunteerism and her support for her community, Nouchee Sunshine Moua exemplifies the meaning of “leading by example.” She inspires other youth to join her in organizing and supporting events, voter advocacy and civic engagement at The Fresno Center. Due to her mother’s Hmong community involvement, Sunshine was exposed to all types of refugee communities as a child. Sunshine worked on successful councilmember and mayoral campaigns in the last election season. For her, it’s important that candidates both understand the Hmong immigrant experience and have the interests of the greater community at heart. This commitment to bettering the community and seeing it from different perspectives is also evident in Sunshine’s efforts to learn the Hmong and Korean languages. She also supports children’s programs at a local church and hospital, and campaigns for increased voter engagement. Currently, Sunshine is studying nursing in college, and she has long-term plans to become a nurse practitioner and work with children from low-income communities.
Stephanie Mendiola, 17
Nominated by Equal Voice for Southern California Families Alliance
Stephanie Mendiola has worked hard as a scholar, and a transformative organizer with InnerCity Struggle in her community, while also helping to financially support her family. Stephanie understands that families of color in her community are experiencing poverty as the result of systemic injustice, and she is passionate about organizing around those issues. She worked on securing a wellness center at her school so that low-income, undocumented and LGBTQ+ community members can access quality health services. She was also integral to a food justice campaign at her school that improved lunch experiences for 1,200 students, many of whom rely on school food as the main source of their meals. Stephanie has also been a part of several district-wide educational justice campaigns, mobilizing her peers to demand equitable funding, protections for the undocumented community and less criminalization of youth. Stephanie plans to use award funds to support her family and help pay her college tuition.
Thang Q. Diep, 21
Nominated by Equal Voice for Southern California Families Alliance
Thang Diep has worked with Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ) | Los Angeles to preserve race-conscious admissions at Harvard College, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 2019. Thang is from Los Angeles and maintained his connection to the AAAJ organization in college. He was one of eight students permitted to testify in the Harvard admissions trial last fall and has been one of the student leaders and recruiters for the amici group, which supports Harvard’s race-conscious holistic admissions program. Thang is also passionate about issues of access to quality health care and education for immigrant families. Throughout his college career he worked closely with immigrant and Vietnamese youth living in Boston through the Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment (BRYE) program. As a BRYE director, Thang helped provide summer employment opportunities, connection to local resources, and personal development opportunities for immigrant youth. Thang intends to use this award to continue giving back by centering authentic community relationships and youth voices in service work. He is committed to facilitating grassroots organizing opportunities and leadership development for immigrant youth.
Ignacio Valverde, 23
Nominated by San Diego Equal Voice Network
Ignacio Valverde was Associate Students Government President at San Diego City College, where he urged action for greater protections for undocumented communities, and for greater access to opportunities, scholarships and resources for underprivileged students. Ignacio was selected as a 2018 Students for Economic Justice Fellow, exhibiting leadership and mobilizing his community in National City through Alliance for Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE). Ignacio has experienced being rent burdened, and this informs his passion and commitment for organizing around affordable housing. He has contributed to the ACCE rent-control campaign in many facets, helped solidify the ACCE chapter in his neighborhood, as well as teaching advocacy and media skills in his community. With the award funds, Ignacio plans to continue pursuing his education and community work in and around the University of California, Berkeley.
Sarah Farouq, 21
Nominated by San Diego Equal Voice Network
Sarah Farouq was a Student for Economic Justice Fellow at Center on Policy Initiatives in 2017, where she demonstrated leadership and passion while building her organizing experience. She worked on a campaign centered on reinforcing the minimum wage and sick-day ordinance; Sarah played a key role achieving the policy change through coalition partner follow ups, community outreach and strategic messaging. Sarah also built community with her peers and helped build a cohort-learning environment. As a low-income, first-generation student and the daughter of Iraqi refugees, she is passionate about empowering disenfranchised communities and centers her work in that perspective. Sarah also organized to increase voter awareness and participation in jails as a part of Pillars of the Community. She is committed to organizing with an intersectional lens and plans to use the award funds to support an advocacy team of Muslim student youth.