Plantation girl ‘SHINE’s bright for at-risk and foster children

During her teenage years Teirvondria “Tia” McCall has dedicated much of her time to speaking up for children who often can’t.

The Plantation resident became the president of the Broward chapter of Florida Youth SHINE (Striving High for Independence aNd Empowerment) at age 15. She made history as the youngest president for the organization, which is made up of current and former foster youth.

In her role, McCall oversees meetings for the chapter, made up of around 40 members between ages 13 to 24. She takes pride in being hands-on and emerging as a positive example for others. The youngster has also visited the Capitol in Tallahassee during Children’s Week to talk about bills and issues affecting those within the foster care system.

“A lot of the stuff youths and foster care and youth in general have to go through…it can be traumatizing,” McCall said.

“By me or anyone just opening their mouth and speaking passionately and intelligently about what you believe in can spark change without even knowing that you are doing it. So it’s really important as a teen for me to push the idea that just because someone is in foster care doesn’t make someone different,” McCall said.

Florida’s Children First (FCF) has taken notice of her efforts and named her as “Youth Advocate of the Year.” The FCF’s 14th annual Broward awards reception at the Riverside Hotel in Fort Lauderdale also presented the 2016 “Champion for Children” to Dr. Frederick Lippman, chancellor of Nova Southeastern University’s Health Professions Division.

The “Child Advocates of the Year” honorees were Stuart Singer and Carl Goldfarb of the Fort Lauderdale office of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP. Howard Talenfeld serves as president of the statewide advocacy organization made up of supporters and attorneys focused on protecting legal rights of at-risk and foster care children.

“Tia is a natural leader,” he said. “She has been an exceptional leader for Youth SHINE. She has been in the system. Her advocacy has been outstanding. ”

McCall refers to receiving the award as “life-changing,” as it reaffirms her belief that the work is leading to people taking notice. She wants to be that beacon of hope for a child who needs it. McCall was in the care of her brother’s grandmother until age 17. During that time she suffered verbal and physical abuse, as well as witnessed drug use in her home. These days McCall is staying with her biological mother, who has been sober three years.

“She is proud of me, and I’m proud of her as well,” McCall said.

McCall avoided becoming the product of her environment and is currently studying criminal justice at Broward College. Outside the classroom she works part-time and interns at Florida’s Children First.

Christina Spudeas, executive director of Florida Children’s First, has interacted with McCall in Tallahassee and is amazed at her spirit.

“She is way beyond her years with her organizational skills and the way she carries herself,” she said. ” Having the ability to know that what she went through and sharing parts of her story can help make an impact and change lives for those coming behind her has really empowered this young lady. ”

For more information on Florida Children’s First and Florida Youth SHINE, visit


By Scott Fishman

Forum Publishing Group


Original Article

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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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