Special Contribution iconSpecial Contribution

Shana, Liz & Janell

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Since its inception, The Mockingbird Society has employed youth and young adults in a variety of roles — as training facilitators, as members of various community boards — in addition to providing them opportunities to share their personal testimonies. We also look to these young adults to be peer advocates for other young people who are or have been in foster care and/or experienced homelessness.

Hello my fellow readers! My name is Shana Joyce Burgess, and I am 22 years old. I have a past that has made me the caring, inspirational, likable woman that I am today. I have experienced multiple years of homelessness, and many years of kinship and foster care. I was born in Seattle, Washington, but was raised in Federal Way and graduated from Federal Way Senior High School. There I played varsity basketball for four years. I have received many trophies and college letters from schools around the United States. I previously worked for Auburn Youth Resources as an intern and Peer Advocate.

I am an advocate for youth and young adults because I believe they deserve to have their voice heard. I’ve had many opportunities to speak up for those who’ve experienced kinship care, foster care, and homelessness. We, the youth, have experiences and valuable information regarding these systems. It is important that we give feedback since we are the customers affected by these systems. Change cannot be made if no one knows that the given solutions are not working. I have been told for many years that I am a leader, and I take pride in living up to that title. Being an advocate, I have learned many things about my peers — some good and some bad — leaving me stunned and inspired all at once.

I am also an advocate because of my passion to help youth who are less fortunate and have fallen victim to the streets. My dream is to help foster youth in their daily lives through struggles and successes. I remind them, it’s not where you came from, but it’s where you’re going that matters. Since communication rules the nation, I have one goal during my time at The Mockingbird Society: to develop the same passion and love for this organization that Jim Theofelis has had for many years.


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In keeping with our mission to support and employ young adults, we hire Network Representatives, who are between the ages of 13 to 24 years old. When a Network Representative turns 25, they transition out of their role, which allows TMS to hire new Representatives. Although these transitions can be sad, they also provide the opportunity for new young people to gain job skills while maturing as advocates.

Hi Everyone! My name is Liz Hernandez, 

and I am one of Mockingbird’s new Network Representatives. My journey started out when I heard about Year Up, a program that helps young adults gain workforce skills. I was part of the second Year Up cohort here in Seattle and was able to intern at Liberty Mutual. After I graduated from the program, I was hired on as their Development Coordinator where I learned valuable skills.

When my service at Year Up ended, I became homeless on and off for six months. I was homeless in Seattle, San Diego, and Los Angeles. I eventually came back to Seattle to pick myself up and to help my brother get stabilized. One day during drop-in at New Horizons, I heard about the YAEH (Youth Advocates Ending Homelessness) program at The Mockingbird Society, so I decided to see what it was all about.

As a YAEH participant, I testified for the continuation of funding for programs serving homeless youth and young adults before the King County Council. I also presented at a forum for the Committee to End Homelessness, where other participants and I proposed plans to help end homelessness. There were many situations that I went through during homelessness that I wouldn’t want anyone else to experience. By testifying and being a part of the forum, I realized how much I want to help others who have experienced homelessness and that is why I am an advocate.

The main goal I have while working with The Mockingbird Society is to support the pursuit of making homelessness rare, brief, and one-time for any youth that goes through it. By improving my public speaking skills, attending more youth facilitation events, and increasing community awareness about youth homelessness, I believe I will accomplish my goals as a young adult advocate for Mockingbird.


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TMS is very happy to announce that we have recently hired three new Network Representatives: Shana, Janell, and Liz. They have jumped in quickly and are proving to be valuable assets to our team. We are all very excited to see them grow and share their knowledge with both the organization and the community. Please read their introductions below.

Hello, my name is Janell Braxton! I have experienced foster care for a little over 12 years. When I first joined The Mockingbird Society, I was seventeen years old and had a passion to change the system. I started out with the Everett Chapter and within two weeks of attending, I applied and the group voted me in as the new chapter leader. My role required that I attend the monthly meetings, as well as the quarterly SLCs (State Leadership Council), and to be involved with any trainings in my region. Throughout my five years in that role, I grew to be the confident young speaker that I am today. Before my role as chapter leader, I was really shy and never thought my voice mattered. I always followed people because I was afraid to stand alone. However, I was given a chance to stand up for what I believed in and was supported all the way through. I became an advocate who started out soft spoken and am now a Network Representative, a well-rounded and active leader in my community.

I am a leader because I stand for equality and justice for those that experience oppression. I advocate for my brothers and sisters in the system so that their lives and experiences won’t reflect my own. I have grown to be a strong leader and it’s because I questioned the norms and proudly stood tall.

In my new role, one of my goals for working at The Mockingbird Society is to get to know people beyond my old chapter. I also want to make new friends, to keep in touch with my old ones, and to share my years of wisdom at Mockingbird with everyone as well. I look forward to getting to know everyone and to introducing myself to those I haven’t yet met. I am excited to be in this new position, and thank you to my Everett Chapter for being an amazing support, I wouldn’t be where I am without you all! Thank you.

<< go to June 2015 Mockingbird Times


We Welcome
Your Work

We welcome submissions of articles, poetry, artwork, and photography from our young readers who have experience in the foster care system and/ or homelessness. If you want to be, or have been, published in the Mockingbird Times visit www.mockingbirdsociety.org, call us at (206) 407-2134 or email us at youthprograms@ mockingbirdsociety.org. Note: Incoming letters to the editor and correspondence to youth under 18 years should be addressed to the Mockingbird Times and will be opened first by adult editorial staff.