Power of One iconPower of One

Janell Braxtonjanell


The Mockingbird Society has accomplished a lot and it couldn’t have been possible without youth voice! Within the last ten years of summits, we’ve worked with legislators to pass more than 25 bills into laws. In celebration of Mockingbird’s 10th annual Foster Youth and Alumni Leadership Summit, I would like to recognize how this event has shaped me into the leader that I am today. It taught me the value of community engagement, allowed me to see the growth of the event and those involved, and it empowered me to see my role as an advocate in this year’s summit.

I have attended every summit for the past five years, and realized that I’ve grown tremendously as a leader because of it. Through my involvement as a participant, chapter leader, and now Network Representative, I have learned the value of giving back to my community. I volunteer with other non-profits, and have had the opportunity to travel to Japan, Boston, and San Francisco. In all of these places, I shared stories of my experience in foster care, met other foster youth, and discussed how advocacy can create changes in the system. Speaking in front of the Washington State Supreme Court Commission on Children in Foster Care each summit has encouraged me to use my voice to stand up, speak out, and take action wherever I go!

"Through my involvement as
a participant, chapter leader,
and now Network Representative,
I have learned the value of giving
back to my community."

I have been a part of the Everett chapter for years and it has allowed me to see the growth of not only the summit event, but the participants as well. Each year youth bring a topic that they resonate with, and every time their presentation proves to be more impactful with personal experiences, detailed research, and profound knowledge. Participants at the summit write their own speeches, create their own visuals, and practice insatiably. Having been involved for so long, I’ve come to realize that summit does more than prepare youth to speak in front of the commission, it establishes a belief that advocacy starts with hearing a youth’s experience and giving them that encouragement by listening. The summit has changed lives by empowering youth to speak up to help create a world-class foster care system and to end youth homelessness.

For the past few years I’ve attended summit as a chapter leader and this year I am a stronger advocate than ever! Working as a Network Representative I have been able to work behind the scenes by helping prepare, set-up, and take-down for the summit. This year, I was the young adult speaker that opened up after Fred Kingston, Director of Youth Programs, and hyping up the crowd was exhilarating. This summit is important to me because I’ve been able to look back and see how much I’ve changed personally and professionally. It’s been a spectacular journey and I wouldn’t change a thing.

In summary, the summit is not just a Mockingbird event. We rely on the contributions and support of our community partners, host agencies, concerned citizens, and most importantly the voices of our young people. We would like to give a special thank you to our summit sponsors: Casey Family Programs, Administrative Office of the Courts, Center for Children & Youth Justice (CCYJ), DSHS Children’s Administration, and the Washington State Supreme Commission on Children in Foster Care. This event helped me develop a stronger voice not only for myself, but also for my brothers and sisters in the system.

<< go to September 2015 Mockingbird Times

2020 Archives

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.