As a former foster youth, spending ten years in the system, Julia Charles 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.
Julia is a graduate of Bennett College (2008), where she finished with a BA in English. She holds an MA in English and African American Literature from North Carolina A&T State University (2010), as well as an MA in African American Studies from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass) (2012). Julia recently completed her doctoral degree in African American Studies from UMass. It is her hope that her academic endeavors will encourage current foster youth to see higher education as an option for creating a successful life after foster care.
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.
Marcella Middleton , age 23 is a graduatee from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke with a degree in social work. She is an lifetime member of Sayso (Strong able youth speak out), which is a youth lead advocacy organization. She currently works at the Division of Health as well as CFFACE (The Center for Family and Community Engagement). Both of her careers include work with youth who have been in any type of substitute care system. Marcella is an alumnus of the foster system and was in the system for 17 years. She has had over 16 different foster care placements during her time in care. Though her time in foster care she has had many hardships, but she was resilient and made it through and now prides herself in dedicating her life to mentoring and supporting youth who are currently in the foster care system so that they can be successful people. Marcella is the recent recipient of the WRAL Living the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. award, advocate of recent normalcy law that was passed by legislation and was foster care alumni that was present when Governor Pat McCrory signed the bill into law, and now serve as the Youth Advisory chair for the GSK Fostering Wellness Impact grant for youth in foster care.
Sixto’s lived experience in the foster care system fuels his passion for youth development, youth’s well-being and capacity building of systems and people impacting youth. Sixto founded Think of Us, a non-profit dedicated to innovating with data, technology and multi-media to develop tools and services that build capacity and reform practice. Sixto has participated in several White House briefings around technology, foster care and LGBTQ issues. He has been recognized by the White House as a White House Champion of Change, a Millennial Maker by BET, and was named as one of the Top 24 Changemakers in government under 24 . Sixto currently serves as a member of the integration team at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Sixto currently leads a working committee that focuses on the learning of vulnerable youth populations as a member of the Dell Youth Innovation Advisor. Sixto served as a policy council member, where he provided recommendations to the acting assistant secretary of the Administration for Children and Families under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He also currently serves on the board of directors for the National Foster Care Coalition and The North American Council on Adoptable Children. Lastly, Sixto has appeared on NPR’s “Tell Me More,” Fox News, the Katie Couric show, and the Huffington Post.
Sierra Claire Altizer is an 18-year-old soon-to-be graduate of East Gaston High School who plans to attend Central Piedmont Community College for her first two years, then transfer to East Carolina University to study pediatric nursing. Sierra was in foster care for close to 6 years before being adopted on April 6th, 2016, which was just 12 days before her 18th birthday. "Throughout foster care, I lost faith and hope in myself and everyone around me. I went through almost two failed adoptions and never understood why. Now that I have been adopted it all makes sense. What you're currently facing in your journey will one day all come together. Your faith and hope can and will be restored. You just can't give up."