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My name is Jennifer and I’m a former foster and homeless youth. I love advocating for human rights and change.
Originally from Washington D.C. Moving to LA was a big change for me. I was homeless for a short amount of time. But all bad beginnings end with happy endings (if you choose too). Here, I am now starting a new chapter in my life so others can have a happy ending and continue there story. Whether I’m advocating or singing/performing--which is what I do best.
David Cunningham is a native of Watts, California, in Los Angeles whereas a child, he was in between foster parents until he was adopted. However, David was neglected and abused mentally, physically, and emotionally by the adoptive family. Although David had reported the abuse to authorities, no actions prevailed. He had opened up about his sexuality to a school psychiatrist, which resulted in being shunned by his adoptive family. The family insisted he could not be gay and live in the home any longer. This resulted in him no longer residing in the home and becoming homeless. Ultimately, he resorted to sheltering in cars, trains, buses, abandoned homes, and parks. Even though there was no physical home, getting an education was a must. In the ninth grade, David had a trusted educator who helped him enroll at Alain Leroy Locke High School where he graduated at the age of 15.
David went on to Savannah State University where he studied Public Administration and Political Science with a minor in Pre-Law. During his undergraduate tenure, on the campus of Savannah State University, David helped found the first student affiliate group of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists and the Gay-Straight Alliance. David also served as the first president for the Minority Mentorship Program which helps raise the retention rate of young African American freshmen on campus. David severed as a Los Angeles County HIV Commissioner representing Los Angeles County Supervisorial District 2. He also served as an intern working on Georgia's Gubernatorial Candidate, Stacey Abrams Campaign. David’s research interest includes equity for black students in education and gentrification in high poverty neighborhoods of color. During some of his research, David had the opportunity to volunteer as an Organizer with Angelenos Organizing for Education (AO4E), an organization dedicated to helping find solutions to bring educational equity to students of disadvantaged communities. David also worked as an organizer for California for Progress and was instrumental in the planning and writing of Senate Bill 562, Medicare for all Californians.
In his teen years and as an adult, David has marched alongside the community to end discrimination and reform our criminal justice system. David has stood side-by-side with community leaders, parents, educators, and healthcare providers and marched alongside working-class families to help put an end to racial discrimination. He has stood side-by-side with community members, activists, parents, educators, and health providers to better the communities in which he lives. David actively listens to the challenges our students and teachers face each day, and he has helped change health care policies for families and continue his work to end poverty in our communities. David is acutely aware of the needs and wants of the community, and he is a voice for the unheard voices.
Travis is a 21 year old artist, living in Los Angeles, CA. He is an advocate for displaced youth and works at the LA LGBT Center. Having experienced homelessness in the past, Travis recognizes the struggle and crisis. He dedicates his time to raise awareness and works directly with displaced youth in a drop-in center.
Travis assists with documentation, government assistance, housing assessments, and a fellow peer to check in with. He also speaks at city hall and other council meetings to fight for funding and the rights that our youth deserve.
Outside of his work in advocacy, he is a singer/songwriter and is releasing his first debut album in April of 2020.
A few years ago I experienced a mental, physical and spiritual breakdown. I was depressed, self destructive, and addicted to running away from my problems. I thought maybe if I became financially rich then it would solve all my problems. I was wrong though, what I needed to do was the basics of any type of recovery which is to heal.
After I burnt myself out, I found myself on the streets of L.A. sleeping on the sidewalk of a church. Never in my dreams would I have expected to see myself there. I was supposed to be the next Steve Jobs or Jay Z, at least I had told myself that. I came to realize after a few months what I had been neglecting all along: I didn't need to be financially rich to become wealthy or successful. I learned that wealth was internal and the first step to becoming wealthy was to love yourself.
Since then I've been working on loving myself so then I could love others and God which is the real is the true determining factor of wealth. The streets taught me some of the most valuable lessons of my life so that's why I feel the need to give back to those who gave me life again. A great way of doing that is to be a voice for the voiceless, that's why I joined HYFLA.
Be on the look out because we have a lot in store. We might not be able to end poverty, but we can try. That's what we were put on this earth for, to love or try to love.
August Jimenez graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Culture. He is a Certified Mental Health Recovery Specialist recognized by the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and Mental Health America of Los Angeles.
Mr. Jimenez currently works with Union Station Homeless Services and the Pasadena Public Health Department on the Pasadena Outreach Response Team (PORT) in hopes to help mitigate the emergence of people experiencing homelessness from the City of Pasadena. As a person who has experienced displacement, he is a champion of empowering others. He believes it is important as advocates of mental health to remember to practice and instill empathy. He emphasizes genuine relationships are formed through honest communication and meaningful connections.
Mr. Jimenez views recovery as a process of support, patience, and hope. The first step begins with listening.
My name is Jacqueline Robles, 20 years old, and I’m a fourth year at CSU Long Beach studying Business Management. I will be graduating this May and pursuing graduate school at UCLA for Public Policy.
One dream goal of mine is to open my own group home for transitional aged foster youth. I am most passionate about using my lived experience to advocate and amplify other youth’s voices, especially in regards to foster care.
In my free time I like to travel, hike, and go to the beach.
Christina is a 25-year-old, Mexican American, single mother, first-generation college student studying Public Policy as well as a first-year Master’s in Public Administration student at the USC Price School of Public Policy. She proudly identifies herself as a former foster youth, incarcerated youth, homeless youth and sex trafficking survivor of Los Angeles. At the age of two, she entered the foster care system where she experienced many forms of abuse ranging from systematic negligence, physical, emotional, and sexual exploitation. She has leaned on education and service work to change her outcome in life.
Christina has work experience in several community-based organizations that serve foster, refugee, homeless, formerly incarcerated, low-income, sex trafficking, and at-risk children youth and families. Christina is currently a Assistant Director of Quality Assurance, Policy and Evaluations for a residentials treatment facility for female foster youth in Inglewood. Her primary role is creating, implementing, and overseeing processes for continuous quality improvement.
Christina is also a small business owner and licensed Continuing Education Unit (CEU) trainer, providing education development training to foster parents, law enforcement, university classrooms, as well as county officials. She has recently been appointed to be California Youth representative for the California Board of State Community and Corrections Executive Steering Committee. Christina has also served as Policy Council Representative for the Coordinated Entry System through Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) and currently, an active board member of Homeless Youth Forum Los Angeles (HYFLA. Christina works with city policy executives to end youth homelessness by leveraging resources, and bridging gaps between youth, programs and partners. Christina has advocated for disfranchised communities on the local and state level; she has received several awards for community impact and leadership along with a Proclamation from L.A. County Board Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. Christina’s interests focus on advocating prevention, equal access and accountability policy for the safety and welfare for the children in California. Her career goal is to become a political actor within public sector, where she can the peruse rights for equal access to higher education for disfranchised communities, enhance public safety and progress the welfare for youth effects by the state systems. Christina seeks to improve social responsibility within business improvement districts such as a Los Angeles California to address the need for economic development within inner cities. Lastly, her goal is to use all of her skills to make a national impact and develop society by using innovative strategical community base planning.