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White House honors foster care youth as ‘Champions of Change’

May 19, 2015


Watch the entire event on Youtube.

Today the White House honored 12 former foster youth as “Champions of Change” who are making a difference in their communities. In addition to honoring these young people for their courage, resilience, and contributions, the event highlighted their commitment to furthering their education. The event showcased the stories and work of these inspirational leaders as a part of National Foster Care Month.

The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.

Among the honorees were Mary Lee, national coordinator for Youth Villages’ YVLifeSet program, and Sixto Cancel, a student at Virginia Commonwealth University and member of Youth Villages’ YV Scholar program.

Mary Lee

Mary Lee

Mary Lee, Memphis, Tennessee
Mary Lee, Esq., serves as National YVLifeSet Coordinator for Youth Villages, a national children’s services nonprofit headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. YVLifeSet helps provide vulnerable young adults, some of whom are aging out of foster care, with the skills necessary to achieve their fullest potential. At Youth Villages, Lee helped to establish the YV Scholars program, which offers young adults in YVLifeSet additional support to meet their educational goals. One of Lee’s greatest achievements was helping ensure foster youth adopted from state custody would not have to choose between being adopted by a family and pursuing higher education, as she did. Her story inspired the Fostering Adoption to Further Student Achievement Act (nicknamed the Mary Lee Act). Mary Lee is a graduate of Austin Peay State University and The Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis.

Sixto Cancel

Sixto Cancel

Sixto Cancel, Richmond, Virginia
Sixto Cancel is a college student and a Young Adult Consultant with the Children’s Bureau, working in the Center for State Capacity. As a commitment maker for the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU), Cancel founded Think of Us, a non-profit dedicated to innovating with data, technology and multi-media to serve vulnerable populations. His dedication to helping young people succeed in life started in high school with Stellar Works, his initiative to provide SAT and remedial education programing for students in foster care. He has also served as a member of the National Foster Care and Alumni Policy Council, as an advisory member to the American Institutes for Research LGBTQQA Advisory Board, and currently serves as a board member of the North American Council on Adoptable Children. Cancel is a fourth year student at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Youth Villages congratulates Mary and Sixto on this tremendous honor!

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