Julia S. Charles received her Ph.D. and an M.A. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She also holds an M.A. in English and African American Literature from North Carolina A&T State University and a B.A. in English from Bennett College. She is currently an Assistant Professor of African American literature at Auburn University. As a former foster youth, spending ten years in the system, Julia is no stranger to the lasting effects of life in the child welfare system. As a result, she has spent the earlier part of her adulthood advocating for foster youth through her work as a volunteer, speaker, and author. It is her hope that her academic accomplishments will encourage current foster youth to see higher education as a viable option for creating a successful life after fostercare. Her book, Surviving the Storm: The Life of a Child Foster Care, is an easy-to-read, personal journey of the author's life in foster care. It includes an appendix of guided reading questions for social workers, care-providers, foster parents, and foster youth in order to help them consider broader questions about life in the foster care system.
Sierra is 19 years old and a graduate of East Gaston High School. After being in foster care for 6 years she was adopted by a loving family the day before she turned 18. She went from being the only girl to the big sister of 3 amazing little girls. Currently, she has moved out on her own and working full time while she figure out what she wants to do in school. She has been loved and supported by her amazing family and support group since day one of entering the foster care system.
Sharlene Alice Provilus is a spoken word artist, entrepreneur, writer, and speaker with a passion for creativity. She is the founder and Principal Creative Consultant of the Redeemed Art Collective and CEO of Write Speak Inspire, LLC, a speaker management and empowerment company. Despite experiencing the hardships of abuse, neglect, and misfortune in her early years, she never lost her creative instinct. At the age of 15 years old, she and her family relocated from New York City to North Carolina, where she completed high school and obtained a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Sociology with a Marriage & Family Counseling concentration from East Carolina University. She began her professional career in Higher Education Administration & Residence Life at Meredith College, before transitioning to youth development work in the non-profit sector and spending several years developing and overseeing after-school and summer camp programs.
At 13, MelRo's mother was raped by a 50-year-old man. MelRo is the product of that despicable act. After a neighbor witnessed MelRo being abused by her grandmother, MelRo was placed in foster care at age 10 and spent much of her childhood in care--living in 23 foster homes, feeling unloved and experiencing more abuse. As an "emancipated" teenager, MelRo found herself a homeless single mother.
Like a fairytale, MelRo was "discovered" and became a sought-after professional model—living a life most only dream about. But this sudden success could not erase her unhealed childhood trauma. This sent MelRo on a quest of self-healing and discovery.
Today MelRo continues to be a successful model, but is also an internationally recognized speaker and children's advocate who has inspired countless audiences and educates about healing trauma and supporting foster youth. (www.melrosvoice.com)