Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Alex McFarland named 2010 FosterClub Outstanding Young Leader

Alexander McFarland has served as President of Ohio's statewide foster care youth advocacy board (Ohio YAB) for two years. When the Ohio YAB lost its funding and supportive staff, Alex immediately began advocating for alternative funds, and succeeded in attaining a grant for 25K that will support the continued existence of not only the statewide board, but county and regional foster youth advisory boards as well. He has traveled throughout the state of Ohio to help create and develop youth advisory boards.

Alex has served as the Legislative Liaison for the Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America for two years. He participated in the 2008 Alumni , the 2009 anniversary of Chafee funding, and presented a workshop at the 2009 NILA Conference. Alex was chosen by Ohio's First Lady to represent the needs of Ohio's foster care youth on Governor Strickland's 2010 .

Alex is known throughout the state for his vision and determination. He testified before Ohio legislators to advocate for the restoration of the state Independent Living Allocation. He arranged for Ohio foster care youth, alumni and allies to visit 24 legislator’s offices in order to promote Ready to Launch, a reminder to Ohio legislators of a front-end investment in transitional youth.

Alex is committed to supporting the national foster care youth/alumni community. During the 2009 NILA conference, he arranged a meeting of representatives from the Colorado, Tennessee and Ohio chapter in order to network and share ideas. He continues to keep in touch with FCAA members in Colorado, in order to be a support to them as they build their chapter.

Finally, Alex is a strong advocate of education reform. He is an active participant in Ohio Reach, a statewide initiative to increase the number of foster care youth who enroll in and graduate from college. In 2009, he participated in the statewide Ohio Reach Summit, including serving on the panel of youth voices. Alex’s words and passion resonated with participants, which included 100 social workers and 100 higher education representatives.

Alex uses his experiences from his entire life, when he was officially in foster care and even before that, as well as all the experiences from the youth he interacts with on a daily basis, to help shape solutions for Ohio’s foster youth. Whether he is on the field in a legislator’s office, at school studying Biology, or working as a Assistant Manager for Jack’s Aquarium and Pets, Alex strives to help the Children, Foster Youth, Former Foster Youth and pets of his community.

Honoring Our Beginnings

Ohio is known as the birthplace of aviation. Let it be known that PCSAO is the birthplace of the Ohio Youth Advisory Board, and has served as its support base for the past three years. What began with a room full of foster care youth from across the state is now recognized as a legitimate and serious youth voice for all those who are served by the Ohio child welfare system.

It cannot be understated that we would not be where we are today without the stability and reputation of PCSAO. What better way for a young organization to grow, than under the guidance of an established entity?  A very heartfelt thank you to Crystal Ward Allen, Brandi Scales, Greg Kapcar, Max Bucey, Jessica Schneider-Chance, Kelly Knight and Jeed Jitprasert, and every intern or associate that played a part in supporting the Ohio Youth Advisory Board…

Just as the youth involved in the Ohio YAB are traveling along the road to independence, so the Ohio Youth Advisory Board is developing our own unique identity as well. This evolution has been recently supported by ODJFS through their generous investment in the growth and development of county youth advisory boards. From the very beginning, Ohio YAB officers have hoped to establish and build a regional presence throughout the state, and building up county youth advisory boards is an important step in that direction.

As founding member, two-term President and current Alumni Facilitator of the Ohio YAB, I truly believe that our organization is on the brink of being one of the greatest youth advisory boards in the county. And we owe our progress to our supporters. From the meeting spaces, to the logistics of organizing events, to helping craft our message and present it to the various entities, PCSAO has been there all the way. Teaching and guiding us as we maneuver the halls of the legislature; advocating for our fellow brothers and sisters. As we transformed from able youth to advocating adults, PCSAO was just a heartbeat away, aiding in breaking down the bureaucratic tape and language.

It started as an idea, a call to action for young people to make a difference. The seed of an organization was planted, and PCSAO helped grow the leaders to lead it. We have made a difference in the lives of so many people and will continue to do so. I offer my gratitude to the organization that has supported our development for so long, and my appreciation for Doris Edelmann and Lisa Dickson for serving as primary adult supporters during our transition.

I offer up my gratitude to PCSAO, OHILA, ODJFS, OCWTP, OACCA, FCAA-Ohio, the Supreme Court of Ohio, and the many other organizations and individuals who have contributed to our success. On behalf of current and former foster youth, I say a heartfelt “Thank You” to everyone for everything in regards to OUR Ohio Youth Advisory Board.

Thank you and God Bless,

--President Adrian M. McLemore