Champions for Change: CCAI’s 2017 Foster Youth Interns

Every summer, CCAI proudly welcomes twelve young professionals with former experience in the foster care system to participate in our Foster Youth Internship Program® on Capitol Hill. This innovative program allows college students and recent graduates from around the country to participate in highly sought after internships in congressional offices and committees. Interns are also encouraged to share their unique foster care experiences through the annual Foster Youth Internship Program® Report and Congressional Briefing to inform members of The U.S. Congress of areas within the foster care system in need of modification and improvement.

Through the duration of the Foster Youth Internship Program®, each intern will vigorously explore issues that currently impact over 428,000 children and youth in the U.S. foster care system and develop ideas for solutions to these problems based off of extensive research and their own personal insights. These findings will then be compiled into a policy report that will be presented during the annual Congressional Briefing. Policy reports written by former Foster Youth Interns have led to the introduction of new policies and bills, as well as regulations and laws.

Our 2017 Foster Youth Interns have finally arrived and we are excited to introduce them to you!


Justin Abbasi is an undergraduate junior majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with a minor in Global Health Studies at Yale University. Justin has served on a state-wide South Carolina youth advisory board and currently works at a non-governmental think tank that helps the Connecticut Department of Children and Families improve child welfare. He designed an epidemiological study that seeks to identify social support for youth in out-of-home care that he looks to conduct next year. Justin also has a strong passion for public speaking, which pushes him to use his voice to help youth who struggle to find theirs. He hopes to continue researching and using his voice to address mental health services for youth in out-of-home care during his time on Capitol Hill.


Alexis Arambul is an undergraduate senior at Washington State University- Pullman who expects to graduate in May of 2018. Alexis is majoring in Political Science with a pre-law focus. Alexis desires to use her experiences in the foster care system to influence child welfare at the national level and follow her passion for helping youth find safe and permanent homes. Alexis seeks to provide foster children with the opportunity to thrive and improve their lives.


Tiffany Boyd is a former client of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. She spent 10 years in care and has spent the following 10 years since then traveling and advocating for reform of the child welfare system. She is a resident of Long Beach California and is a full-time Public Administration major at California State University Dominguez Hills. Tiffany has been recently appointed as a Commissioner on the Citizens Oversight Committee for Proposition HHH to oversee 1.2 billion dollars designated to be used towards the eradication of homelessness in the city of Los Angeles. She aspires to one day start her own non-profit organization geared towards utilizing emancipated and post-transition age foster youth to assist foster youth who are still in care navigate the system successfully.


Eden Harris will graduate from North Carolina Wesleyan College in May of 2018. She is passionate about foster youth who age out of the foster care system experiencing healing through entrepreneurship. Eden wishes to help foster youth overcome the challenges they face by showing others that exterior events cannot govern their internal condition. Eden’s goal is to build a clearer path to success that is full of useful resources for foster youth through social entrepreneurship. She hopes to become a business lawyer who helps entrepreneurs start businesses, particularly those focusing on foster care.


Tonisha Hora is an undergraduate senior majoring in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Since attending UW-Stout, her passion for advocacy has developed through her social work classes and community involvement, which have equipped her with a strong understanding of macro-level policies and solutions. While on Capitol Hill, Tonisha plans to advocate for the prevention of abuse and neglect so that more children can live in healthy and happy homes.


Keola Limkin is a recent graduate of the University of Hawaii, where he earned Bachelor’s Degrees in Psychology and Communication. Keola’s participation on the HI HOPES Board and with EPIC ‘Ohana has helped shape his advocacy work experience. His interest in policy work with nonprofit organizations has inspired him to work on child welfare reform, specifically through the monitoring of foster youth grievance processes and helping foster youth participate in normal activities, build their social capital, and engage in healthy risk-taking activities to successfully transition into adulthood.


Jameelah A. Love is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and hopes to become a Guardian Ad Litem to elevate the a voices of foster youth. As the President of Wisconsin’s Youth Advisory Council, Jameelah works to bring awareness to the need for positive reform of foster care and the empowerment of foster youth. Jameelah works as a Youth Empowerment and Support Specialist at a local nonprofit, and also as a Young Adult Consultant with the ICF Capacity Building Center for States. She is also currently working on her own initiative, The J.A. Love Project, which focuses on promoting anti-violence living, improving impoverished areas and encouraging youth engagement.


Michael Teresa Mellifera is an undergraduate sophomore majoring in Philosophy. Her decision to also minor in Theology and Islamic World Studies stems from her interest in empowering disadvantaged peoples through volunteer work, such as foster children, the recently incarcerated and religious minorities subject to discrimination. Michael hopes to attend graduate school to continue studying the languages, philosophies, and histories of the Near East. While on Capitol Hill, Michael will focus on diversion strategies in the juvenile justice system, specifically for at-risk male teenagers also involved in the child welfare system. She believes that incarceration exposes young people to high levels of violence, abuse and trauma which makes them more likely to re-offend upon their release. Whenever appropriate, Michael believes that youth should be diverted from traditional correctional facilities to more restorative and developmentally healthy institutions.


Htet Htet Rodgers is an undergraduate junior majoring in Psychology at Northwestern State University of Louisiana-Natchitoches. Htet Htet was a participant in the White House Foster Care Hackathon, where she successfully developed an application with Microsoft to help mothers dealing with addictions. Htet Htet’s past experience with the Department of Child and Family Services has helped her participate in proposing and renewing child welfare legislation in Louisiana. Due to her first-hand experience with foster care, Htet Htet is passionate about raising awareness to federal policymakers about the needs of foster youth.


Jameshia Shepherd is a graduate student at Michigan State University pursuing a Master’s Degree in Social Work with a focus on Community Engagement. Jameshia previously traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the 2016 Foster Youth Shadow Day. Through this experience, she was inspired to seek out a profession that enables her to assist and empower youth who are faced with challenges that brought them into the child welfare system. Jameshia graduated in May of 2017 with her Master’s in Social Work and she hopes to attend law school to achieve her dream of directly working with the child welfare system at the federal level.


Demontea Thompson is a graduate student at the University of Southern California earning a Master’s Degree in Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs. Demontea’s involvement in extracurricular activities as an undergraduate student inspired him to use his voice to empower youth who do not have the opportunity to advocate for themselves. To share his story and motivate those from similar backgrounds, Demontea authored, Raised from Scratch, an inspirational autobiography that documents his experiences in the foster care system and his quest for higher education and self-sufficiency. Demontea’s work with non-profit organizations, such as the California Youth Connection and United Friends for the Children, ignited his passion to serve as a positive role model for the youth in his community. He is a Compton native who would love to run for office in the near future.


Alexandria Ware is a graduate student at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa pursuing a Master’s Degree in Human Development and Family Science. Alexandria co-founded Fostering Success, a program that seeks to provide college students in or exiting from the foster care system with resources and skills, along with connections to mentors. Alexandria’s goal is to advocate for those in foster care with the hope of establishing a center where foster youth will have access to tutoring, mentoring and assistance for future college admissions.


You can Encourage and support the 2017 Foster Youth Interns!

  • Send us an email or note of encouragement for the 2017 class and we’ll read it at their weekly community meeting where they work on their policy reports.
  • Contact Martina Arnold to learn more about ways you can participate in supporting the individual interns. There are various needs and opportunities surrounding the program each summer. We would be honored to have you join us in celebrating these young leaders. Martina can be reached at


The Foster Youth Internship Program® is a signature program of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.


Published by


The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the millions of children around the world in need of permanent, safe, and loving homes and to eliminating the barriers that hinder these children from realizing their basic right of a family.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s