The National Youth Advisory Council (NYAC) is a body of young people from across the United States striving to vocalize the needs of youth who have experienced homelessness by serving as ambassadors and engaging with the lawmakers, service providers, and community officials responsible for creating and implementing change. NYAC members grow as leaders for change and play a vital role in shaping NN4Y’s priorities and strategies.

To date, we have trained over 35 National Youth Advisory Council members to take an active role in crafting a policy advocacy plan, speaking about federal policies that impacted their lives, and educating policymakers to transform systems. NYAC members represent every US region and 17 states: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Washington, DC.

MISSION

To educate policymakers, service providers, and community officials throughout the country about youth and young adult homelessness and advocate for solutions so that no young person in America has to experience even one day of homelessness.

VISION

To empower and amplify the voices of young leaders with lived experience of homelessness to transform systems by:

Educating the Public
Defining a Policy Agenda
Advocating to Policymakers
Training Organizational Leaders + Youth Service Providers

Are you interested in joining NYAC? Want to nominate someone?

Youth and young adults who have experienced homelessness and achieved stability are welcome to apply to be a member of NN4Y’s National Youth Advisory Council (NYAC).

NYAC members will share their journey and provide insight from their lived experience to identify relevant issues, create policy recommendations and educate and influence the public, policymakers, and youth practitioners. NN4Y will lead and direct all NYAC activities.

Learn more about the requirements and expectations. If you know of a young leader who would be great, nominate them today!

NYAC Nomination Form

MEET THE NYAC MEMBERS

As part of the NYAC, members work together to help address some of the most pressing ethical and moral issues facing youth experiencing homelessness.

NYAC MENTORS

Keyona Cooper
Keyona Cooper

Keyona Cooper is a native Washingtonian, foster care alumna and child welfare social worker. She is passionate about changing the negative narrative associated with youth who exit the foster care system. Kee earned her BSW from Shaw University and MSW from North Carolina Central University. She is a Licensed Graduate Social Worker in D.C. and Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) in Maryland. She is the founder of Youth Enter Adulthood Ready (Y.E.A.R.), Inc., which equips youth to exit foster care and thrive independently. Kee’s vision is to eliminate the negative outcomes experienced by youth who exit foster care. She is excited to use her lived and professional experiences in child welfare to advocate for system wide change.

Aja Ellington
Aja Ellington

Aja Ellington is a Missouri native, Indiana resident and proud mother of twins. Having gone through chronic poverty and homelessness at different points in her life, Aja took her experiences and decided to mentor, volunteer, become a youth advocate and assist individuals and youth within her home communities experiencing similar struggles. She graduated from a self-sufficiency teen moms’ program in 2009 where she later became an intern/employee and was able to give back to the very program that served her and her children. In May 2014, Aja obtained an Associate’s degree in Applied Science and Human Services with a credential in Youth Development. Additionally, in May 2018 she graduated honors with a Bachelor’s degree (BSW) in Social Work from Indiana University and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree (MSW) which she will later use to open her very own income-based counseling firm.

Sharday Hamilton
Sharday Hamilton

Sharday Hamilton is passionate about working as a youth leader in Chicago and strives to help others hear her story and homeless journey. She is equally passionate about educating other youth and young adults to identify and gain access resources she never had a chance to receive that may be available to them. She enjoys advocacy and is committed to ensuring the voices of other youth and young adults are heard.

Stephanie Perez
Stephanie Perez

Stephanie Perez has been a tireless advocate and spokesperson for the housing and support needs of young families in Texas. She is a mom to two kids. Growing up in a big family from a small town in Texas, not many resources were made available to her. Through connecting with other moms on social media she found a way to get out of a difficult situation and move to Austin. She has since gone from a shelter to transitional housing to living independently and has been a tireless advocate and spokesperson for the housing and support needs of young families. She believes that her story, along with countless other young people, must be heard and has the potential to change minds and hearts to improve the lives of youth without a home.

KeAndra Radchenko
KeAndra Radchenko

KeAndra Radchenko was born and raised in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She currently has custody of her sister, is a full-time student, and works full time. Her passion is serving youth in rural communities who, otherwise, wouldn’t have a voice and helping them become stable in order for them to live full, happy lives.

Benjamin Saldana
Benjamin Saldana

Benjamin Saldana is a Connecticut resident and formerly homeless youth whose understanding that every struggle is a new strength, has projected him forward to working tirelessly to refocus and reengage the youth of his communities. Ben has worked as a Case Manager and Outreach Specialist, centering his focus on homeless youth breaking barriers, and diverting at-risk youth from systems that are not designed to support their personal and unique circumstances. He has established himself as a powerhouse Youth Advocate in his community and is determined to make a significant impact that will last. With aspirations to open his own Transitional Living Program, Ben is eager to continue making valuable connections in the hopes of securing a fundamental, safe, and fair future for the youth of our nation.

CURRENT NYAC MEMBERS

David Baker
David Baker

David Baker serves as a Support Specialist with the YMCA Youth & Family Services department in San Diego, California. As a survivor or extreme-poverty and intergenerational homelessness, he is eager to advocate for young people experiencing homelessness in America and demonstrate the potential of opportunity youth, when given the tools and resources, to thrive. David proudly uses his lived experience to develop his organization’s basic center, transitional living, and street outreach programs.

Cierra Boughton
Cierra Boughton

Cierra Boughton is a native to Florida. In her free time, she loves going to the gym, reading, and visiting the beach! Cierra is currently in the process of getting her degree in Sociology with a minor in Political Science. She has been nominated for the Silver Garland Award for Music for her efforts and success in helping create a music program for the youth in Orlando, Florida. She is also currently working with a local group called the Homeless Task Force in her county. Cierra strives to make a difference for youth who have went through the same or similar circumstances as Cierra and her younger brother. She is very passionate about helping to end youth homelessness, as well as, helping youth have access to healthcare and education. Cierra’s dream is to be able to use her past and present experiences along with her voice to make a difference for the future youth of our country.

Tommy Diaz
Tommy Diaz

Tommy Diaz is a former foster youth who is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture. As a firm believer that there is infinite power in education, he plans to continue his studies to obtain a Master’s degree in architecture and commence to practice within the state of California. Tommy has worked effectively alongside formerly homeless youth, effectively using his own experiences to empower youth to take initiatives in the very programs they are a part of. He is hopeful to engage with and inform as many youth and providers as he can in his venture to positively transform lives.

Rishera Graham
Rishera Graham

My name is Rishera Graham I was born and raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where she currently resides with her husband DeVante. Rishera has earned a degree in Business Marketing, Management, and Early Childhood Education. Rishera is a youth coach working at transitional housing for homeless youth.

In June 2019, Rishera established her Life Coaching business, “Worth More Than Rubies” which is designed to help women find their life’s purpose, discover their identity, break mental barriers, and help women create realistic goals through effective time management. She also coaches people who are experiencing homelessness, whether it’s their current situation or past. Rishera is the author of Worth More Than Rubies:31 Day Affirmation Journal and I Beat the Odds – From Homelessness to Dominating Life.

Han Johnson
Han Johnson

Han Johnson resides in Utah and is an activist and advocate. Han is motivated by a desire to change the world. A political science and international relations student at Weber State University, their work is focused on gun and criminal justice reform. Han is the co-founder of March For Our Lives SLC and a member of Generation Progress, a youth advocacy group focusing on criminal justice reform in impoverished areas. Han enjoys writing letters and lobbying with local and federal representatives to bring awareness to the issues critical to their generation, and is committed to amplifying the voices of homeless teens in their community.

Marcela Molina
Marcela Molina

Marcela Molina is a Florida native and college student. She enjoys connecting with peers who share her determination to make a change by helping those who are need and those who don’t have someone there to lend them a hand. Advocacy is important to her because it is way to make a major difference in the lives of many different people across the world. In 2019, she was selected as a Global Citizen Curtis Scholar, where she had the opportunity to travel to South Africa and NYC to enhance her skills and tools to continue growing as a dynamic change-maker for local to global impact.

Cornealia Powell
Cornealia Powell

Cornealia Powell was born and raised in Kingston Jamaica, and came to America when she was 12. After experiencing homelessness, she was inspired to make a big difference and ensure every young person’s voice is heard. She resides in San Antonio, TX, and is committed to advocating for herself, advocating for others, speaking out for children’s rights and more housing funding for the homeless.

Dahsuri (Dash) Togi
Dahsuri (Dash) Togi
Dahsuri (Dash) Togi a non-binary individual born and raised in American Samoa. She is the Anchorage Youth Task Force Coordinator, an Americorps VISTA, an entrepreneur, and a national youth advocate. She believes in implementing authentic youth voices to inform and expand youth services as well as decriminalizing stereotypes around homelessness. She is the owner of Dash Dezignz sharing her customized Samoan tribal designs and ideas with her community. Her long-term business goal is to create internships with our young people to gain employment skills from customer service, inventory, graphic designing, screen printing and so much more. She spends her free time with her UTOPIA (United Territories of Pacific Islanders) Alaska sisters creating sacred space to strengthen the minds and bodies of QTPI’s- Queer and Trans-Pacific Islanders- through community care, civic engagement, and cultural stewardship. She hopes to use her platform as a young entrepreneur to encourage more young people to fight and strive for success. She asks herself every day “are you going through it or are you growing through it?” Live your truth and do the damn thing!
Milinda Turner
Milinda Turner

My name is Milinda Turner. I’m 22, and I’m from North Dakota. I started working with Youthworks in 2016, and I was doing street outreach and the Youth advisory board. In 2017 I was asked to join the Juvenile justice advisory board. I have made it my mission to speak for those who can’t yet advocate for themselves. When I’m not advocating, I’m working my two jobs and also focusing on my business.

EJ Valez
EJ Valez

EJ Valez is based in Pennsylvania and currently attends Kutztown University. According to EJ, “joining the NYAC makes me one step closer to making a difference. To help homeless youth achieve their expectations while using what I learned from my own homeless experience as a form of breaking down barriers. So one day a child wouldn’t have to worry where their next meal will come from or where they would either head out that night. Knowing that someone cares and will fight for their rights. If being legally blind didn’t stop me from making it to this point. Nothing will stop me from making others know, that one thing you’re labeled with should be used as your power.” EJ is committed to breaking down stereotypes and using past experiences to educate others to create opportunities that give youth a chance. In addition to working, EJ is also an active youth member of Family Promise.

NYAC ALUMNI MEMBERS

Brittney Barros
Brittney Barros

Brittney Barros, after living with neglect, entered her first time in care at the age of 11. After struggling for a long time, her mom finally regained custody of Brittney and her siblings. Watching her mom beat drug addiction and getting a stable home gave Brittney hope for her family. However, a year later her brother crashed the car into the house and became homeless. After living in dirty motels, outside, and couch surfing for seven months, she re-entered the foster care system where she lived in different foster homes and a group home. Finally, when Brittney was 16, her grandmother got legal guardianship. She passionately advocates in both the foster care and runaway/homeless youth community. Back at home, she works for Ozone House, a nonprofit organization for at-risk and homeless youth as an independent contractor through Speak Out—a group that works to end homelessness in Washtenaw County. Brittney spends her free time being a foster youth voice as President of her group Michigan Youth Opportunity Initiative (MYOI) and as a State Co-Director for the Parkwest Foundation, spreading awareness of resources available to those who have been in foster care. Taking her desire to make change within the social system, Brittney is currently pursuing her degree in Social Work at Eastern Michigan University. She plans to pursue a Master’s in Social Work and Public Policy. Her long-term goals include becoming a foster care worker and parent.

Freeman Carter
Freeman Carter

Freeman Carter is a student at Apostolic Bible Institute. He’s studying theology and aspires to be a Pastor of his own church. He partners with the Bridge For Youth and serves on the youth board as a Youth Ambassador where he evaluates programs within Bridge for Youth to help improve them. He recently completed a semester-long long internship working for Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota’s 5th District where he studied public policy, housing, the President’s budget plan, federal appropriations, and worked specifically on cases dealing with Human Services. As a formerly homeless youth, he knows even the smallest impact can make the biggest difference in someone’s life who may be in need of a blessing

Craig Echols
Craig Echols
Craig Echols is a Chicago native passionate about uniting people across the country to raise awareness that will lead to real-life change for young people by connecting communities with resources needed to help homeless youth. He is dedicated to helping identify resources empowering youth to become stable, especially those who have overcome domestic violence and addiction. His desire to cultivate social change and increase positive outcomes for youth and young adults is what led him to join the team.
Clovalea Gage
Clovalea Gage

Clovalea Gage is originally from Kenai, Alaska. They previously served as the volunteer program lead for Mason County Host in Washington, and currently attends the University of Alaska Fairbanks majoring in social work, with a psychology minor and special emphasis on families and schools. Clovalea passion for volunteering in the local communities, and advocating for at risk and unaccompanied youth is what inspired drew them to join the NYAC team.

Kechiera Marshall Hosier
Kechiera Marshall Hosier

Kechiera Marshall Hosier was born into a Caribbean-American family where the culture is still strong. Born and raised in Rochester, NY where she graduated from School of the Arts as a music major and Monroe Community College as a Human service major, education has always been important to her. After graduating high school, she went through the trials of being a young mother learning to navigate the real world at the age of 19. This experience is truly what made her the person she is today because she has gained a broader perspective of life. Today, she knows a lot more now than she knew then and is proud she has achieved a level of stability that allows her to take care of her family. She wants to be voice for all young mothers. She wants all young mothers to know that having a child young isn’t the end of their life, most importantly there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Jessica McCormick
Jessica McCormick
Jessica McCormick is very excited to be serving on the NYAC. A student at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Jessie anticipates graduating in December of 2014 with a double-major in Sociology and Community Leadership. In her free time, she loves to dance, run, and visit the Lake Michigan beaches! Jessie is particularly passionate about issues of affordable housing, ending homelessness, and promoting strong and accessible education. She has a very high appreciation of the ways that systems interconnect and change, and always loves learning more. She dreams of a day when higher education is available to all young people as a way to improve themselves and their lives, empowering them to be an end in the cycle of poverty. As part of the NYAC, Jessie is most excited to learn new ideas, listen to the stories of both NYAC and other homeless youth, share her own experiences and ideas, connect with incredible people, and create tangible change in the lives of young people.
Sasha Vaquera
Sasha Vaquera

Sasha Vaquera is from Northern California where she is currently a student. She hopes to use her youth homelessness experience to help other youth feel supported and know they are not alone. She is passionate about advocacy, especially for mental health services and services for those with disabilities. She is excited to work with our team encouraging youth and young adult leaders to stand and speak up for youth across this nation when they are unable to stand or speak for themselves.