Kaya Lee – Florida Youth SHINE Community Engagement Manager

Kaya Lee has devoted her career to helping youth in foster care build brighter futures. Her experience within the child welfare system uniquely positions her to help build the Florida Youth SHINE statewide chapter network in her role as the Florida Youth SHINE Community Engagement Manager. Her focus is to work closely with the mentors and youth leaders of each chapter to increase statewide resources and support on a local level.

Kaya’s work with children and families began as a college volunteer. In collaboration with on-campus organizations Kaya volunteered for years with Immokalee Housing & Family Services to assist families with childcare, mentorship and other services needed. Her introduction to work with children in foster care was also during this time when she volunteered with Children’s Home Society, where she arranged college tours for youth in care and began to build a mentorship network for them. She joined the agency as a Family Support Worker prior to graduating from Florida Gulf Coast University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. With her ability to communicate and connect with the youth, Kaya soon became an Independent Living Counselor, helping foster children master an array of life skills including interviewing techniques, securing a bank account and other essential tools for “adulting”.

As a Quality Management Specialist with the Children’s Network of Southwest Florida she has provided case management training to increase staff knowledge, conducted file reviews to identify deficits in programmatic function, and arranged focus groups to gather youth input on services received.

For the past five years, Kaya has been a mentor with the Southwest Chapter of Florida Youth SHINE. Her impetus to be part of Florida Youth SHINE dates back to her days of volunteering in college to bring youth in care to her campus for tours. She learned that though foster children in Florida receive free tuition waivers for attending a state college or university, fewer than 3% of eligible youth were taking advantage of this option to obtain a degree. Many knew little about it, so she made it her mission to change things. By being part of Florida Youth SHINE she has helped to arm FYS youth with knowledge of this and many other rights and benefits available to them, to prepare them to advocate and educate their peers in care.

With an entire career focused on enlightening, enriching, and expanding the opportunities available to youth in the child welfare system, Kaya brings a depth of experience to Florida Youth SHINE and the Florida’s Children First team. Her core goal is expanding the leadership opportunities and mentorship provided to our youth on a local level because she believes every youth is one connection away from obtaining the support needed to reach their full potential.

Please Contact Kaya HERE.

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Alexia Nechayev

FYS Events & Meeting Chair
(Palm Beach)

Hello, My name is Alexia Nechayev. I am 25 years old and I am an alumna of Florida International University where I received my B.A. in Psychology. My future career goal is to be a Lawyer. I was in care for about one year from age 17 to 18. Prior to entering care, I only knew about the negative stigma regarding foster care and while in care that narrative was unfortunately my experience.

In school I felt like I was on display because my status in care was broadcast to other students and in my placement behavior was leveraged for “privileges” that should be a natural right of all children. Because I did not know my rights I did not know that what I was experiencing was wrong. Today this is exactly why I advocate, because I don’t want this to be the same for other youth who are experiencing foster care.

This is my second year on the FYS Statewide Board and I’m happy to be the Events and Meetings Chair this year because my main goal through advocacy is to reach as many people as possible. My favorite thing as a board member is to see how comfortable members become while working together. The community needs to know that youth in foster care are real people, going through some of the hardest moments of their life and youth need to know that their voice is powerful. I believe that we have to speak up and bring these issues to people’s attention so that they do not forget us. Advocacy, education and consistency is the only way.

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