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Youth Villages transitional living participants at White House for ‘Women of Soul’ event

March 6, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 6, 2014) – Thirteen participants in the Youth Villages transitional living program for former foster children are joining more than 120 middle school, high school and college-level students from across the country for a “History of Women in Soul Music” educational program and concert at the White House today.

First Lady Michelle Obama is hosting “I’m Every Woman: The History of Women in Soul,” a student workshop in the State Dining Room. The educational event is in conjunction with the PBS music special “Women of Soul: In Performance in the White House,” produced by The GRAMMY Museum. It will include a history of the origins of soul music by Grammy Museum Executive Director Robert Santelli. He’ll be joined by special music guests Patti LaBelle, Melissa Etheridge and Janelle Monáe, who will also appear in the concert later that evening. During the workshop, these artists will share their experiences and answer student questions. The White House “I’m Every Woman: The History of Women in Soul” workshop will be streamed live at 11 a.m. (EST) Thursday:

Youth Villages participants include:

  • Fred Burns, Jackson, Miss., Jackson State University
  • Bianca Christian, Memphis, Tenn., University of Memphis
  • Darrah Hall, Memphis, Tenn., University of Memphis
  • Angelica Harris, Clarksville, Tenn., Austin Peay University
  • Melissa Howard, Memphis, Tenn., University of Memphis
  • Mariah Hunt, Greensboro, N.C., North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
  • Mia King, Knoxville, Tenn., University of Tennessee
  • Jessica Lands, Raleigh, N.C., Strayer University
  • Tyler McNew, Cookeville, Tenn., Tennessee Technological University
  • Mary Moore, Hernando, Miss., Penn Foster College
  • Michelle Morgan, Memphis, Tenn., University of Memphis
  • Keyona Reynolds, Greensboro, N.C., University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • Jennifer Rhodes, Murfreesboro, Tenn., Middle Tennessee State University
  • Brandy Ross, Carrollton, Ga., University of West Georgia
  • Brandon Rutledge, Jackson, Tenn., Union University
  • Stephen Savino, Thompson’s Station, Tenn., Middle Tennessee State University
  • Laura Thomas, Chattanooga, Tenn., Tennessee Technological University
  • Sherika Wilkes, Murfreesboro, Tenn., Middle Tennessee State University
  • Kristie Wimbush, Henderson, N.C., North Carolina Central University
  • Avery Wolverton, Beverly, Mass., American Red Cross Certified Nurse Assistant Program

As part of their “In Performance at the White House” series, the President and First Lady will welcome music legends and contemporary major female artists to the White House for a celebration of the great “foremothers” of American music, with songs expressing the struggles and achievements of women. The program Thursday evening will include performances by Tessanne Chin, Etheridge, Aretha Franklin, Ariana Grande, LaBelle, Monáe and Jill Scott, with Greg Phillinganes as music director. The President’s remarks and the entire event will be streamed live at at 7:30 p.m. (EST)

The Youth Villages participants will conclude their time in Washington, D.C. with a reception on Capitol Hill sponsored by Rep. Gregg Harper of Mississippi. They will thank guests for their interest in and advocacy for foster children and their issues, as well as sharing their ideas for policy changes that can help foster youth and young people aging out of foster care.

The Youth Villages young people will conclude their visits to Washington D.C. with stops at their home state congressional offices. They’ll be talking to representatives and their aides about the Youth Villages’ transitional living program and the needs of young people who age out of foster care without family support.

The program, pioneered in Tennessee and now serving youth in five other states, was recognized because of its commitment to building qualities that help young people – particularly those in the child welfare system – mitigate or eliminate risk and promote healthy development and well-being. Since 1999, it has helped more than 6,000 former foster children make a successful transition to adulthood.

Approximately 26,000 young adults age out of foster care every year in the United States. National studies have found that, with limited resources and supports, these young people are more likely than their peers to end up homeless or incarcerated and less likely to have a job or go to college. In contrast, even two years after completing Youth Villages’ transitional living program, about 80 percent of participants are living independently or with family; are in school, graduated or employed; and are crime-free.

In October, Tennessee became the first state in the country to offer comprehensive services to help all foster children who age out of state custody. Through a partnership with Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services, Youth Villages’ transitional living program is in the fourth year of a rigorous randomized evaluation designed to test the program’s outcomes as compared to traditional services available in the community. The study, coordinated by MDRC, a nonprofit education and social policy research organization, and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, has followed more than 1,300 Tennessee young people and should yield preliminary results next year.

Just last month, the Youth Villages transitional living program was named one of 15 local, state and national youth- and family-serving initiatives making a critical difference in the lives of youth in foster care by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, a national organization based in Washington, D.C.

“Women of Soul: In Performance at the White House” will be broadcast Monday, April 7 at 9 p.m. (EDT) on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings). The program will also be broadcast at a later date via the American Forces Network to American service men and women and civilians at U.S. Department of Defense locations around the world.

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