Cal State Fullerton Graduate and Foster Youth Advocate Junely Merwin

Merwin has overcome a lifetime’s worth of challenges and is now a voice for other young people in the system.
Photograph by Emily J. Davis

What have you been up to since graduating?
This summer, I had an internship with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute as a Foster Youth Intern representing California. I (wrote) a policy report on foster care, particularly supporting pregnant and parenting foster youth—which is tied to my personal experiences—(added) legislative knowledge, and presented it to Congress. I do speaking engagements inspiring foster youth to go after their goals and dreams, and also educating the public on the unique experience of a foster youth.

What do you tell foster youth?
I let them know that, despite what we’ve been through—for me: homelessness, gangs, being a teen mom in foster care—you are still destined for greatness. I tell them the hard truth: You will get hurt, and knowing that, don’t let one person stop you because there are people in your path who will support you. You can still succeed.

How did you get to where you are now?
My son is my greatest motivator; I promised him I would give him a life that I never had. I never knew how I was going to do it, but I knew for a fact that I was going to make it. I aged out of the system in February 2015, and I received my acceptance letter for a full-ride scholarship in March 2015. That was my golden ticket out of the (economic) disparity I grew up around.

What’s next for you?
My ultimate goal is to grow a foundation to support teen parents in foster care through life skills workshops, baby items they need, and support foster youth in higher education through scholarship opportunities. I know in my heart that it is going to happen, one way or another.

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