The National Network for Youth (NN4Y) is dedicated to partnering with and acknowledging the expertise of young people who have run away, been expelled from home or become disconnected from family. By virtue of their own experience, survivors of homelessness are equipped with insights that complement and transcend traditional research. Accordingly, NN4Y established the National Youth Advisory Council (NYAC) to connect these individuals with the lawmakers, service providers and community officials responsible for crafting policy solutions.

Since launching the Council, NN4Y has encouraged formerly homeless youth to become active and outspoken in the community. In turn, these young leaders have upheld our mission to create an unconditional and indiscriminate safety net for all young Americans. Thanks to the NYAC, we will continue sharing the faces and stories that define youth homelessness.

“NN4Y creates collaboration opportunities between Youth Advisors and policymakers to raise the voices and experiences of youth and effect positive and productive changes to existing structures and policies.”

Join NYAC

Interested in joining NYAC? Want to nominate someone? Learn more about the requirements and expectations. If you know of a young leader who would be great, nominate them today!

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NYAC Mission

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

NYAC Vision

To empower young leaders to define a policy agenda and educate the public, youth service providers and policymakers as experts on youth homelessness.

 The NYAC represents an important bridge between formerly homeless young people and policymakers, service providers and community officials throughout the country. Our Youth Advisors collaborate with one another to identify practices and perspectives that help young people overcome homelessness. Moreover, they advocate to policymakers for solutions to youth and young adult homelessness.

NYAC in Action

ADVOCATING FOR SOLUTIONS

NN4Y Youth Advisors educated women legislators from across the United States at the National Foundation for Women Legislators Annual Conference in Oklahoma City, OK on September 12, 2015.  These young leaders are exactly who policymakers should consult when drafting policies and making critical decisions.

STRATEGIC PLANNING & SKILLS BUILDING

In the Fall of 2016, all Youth Advisors convened in Chicago, IL to meet and begin to build relationships with each other, share ideas, learn more about existing federal policies and draft policy solutions. Below is a graphic depiction of their planning at this retreat.

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EDUCATING POLICYMAKERS & PRACTITIONERS

NN4Y Youth Advisors hosted a U.S. Congressional briefing on March 15, 2017 to educate members of congress about youth and young adult homelessness in America, solutions that work and policies they can support.

In the Fall of 2016, NN4Y Youth Advisors spoke at the ABA’s Homeless Youth Law & Policy Summit about the legal issues they encountered while experiencing homelessness.

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2016 – 2017 National Youth Advisors

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.
Aja Ellington
Aja Ellington

Aja Ellington is a Missouri native and proud mother of twins. She currently serves as a lead staff member at Porch Light Transitional Living Program through the Youth Services Bureau of St. Joseph County in Indiana. She has an associate degree in Human Services and will soon complete her BSW at Indiana University. She co-founded a local teen center in her community and is passionate about securing housing for homeless teen mothers and helping them achieve self-sufficiency. She is dedicated to using her experiences to empower youth to know the power of their voice and connect them to resources.

Silas Follendorf
Silas Follendorf
Silas Follendorf has been involved with the youth homelessness community in the greater Seattle area for over ten years. YouthCare, where Silas works, and the City of Seattle are part of a Multidisciplinary Outreach Team that provides on-the-ground case management, mental health and substance abuse support for young folks who are unhoused throughout the region.
Elbert Giron
Elbert Giron
Elbert Giron is a student at The University of California Davis, where he studies Political Science and Middle Eastern History.  He enjoys having healthy dialogues with friends and spending time outside in nature. In the future, Elbert hopes to work on Middle Eastern diplomacy to demystify orientalist stereotypes regarding their culture. He is passionate about issues pertaining to equality, war on terrorism, the justice system, and health care. Being a newly implemented member of NYAC, Elbert is excited to collaborate with his fellow Youth Advisory members in order to formulate new and innovative ways to alleviate homelessness and affect public policy in meaningful and exciting ways.
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.
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.
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 aged 3 and 4. 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.
Kera Pingree
Kera Pingree
Kera Pingree (they/them/their) holds a range of unique experiences, from homelessness to child abuse and neglect, teen pregnancy, parenthood, disability, queer identity and poverty. Kera has gained invaluable wisdom and insight from these experiences, and is committed to using this knowledge to change the world for homeless youth after them. Kera believes today’s disadvantaged youth hold miraculous power, and that they are the key to improving systems for youth moving forward. Kera is honored to serve homeless youth in their community and around the country through leadership and policy advocacy.

 

The organization he has worked with in Connecticut is called “Creative Youth Productions.” A non for profit performing arts organization geared toward keeping youth informed, active, and off the street. Ben has done a lot of work around Criminal justice, Gun Violence Prevention, and Juvenile Justice Reform, with CJJ, OJJDP, and Generation Progress by attending forums, retreats, summits and conferences. After facing housing instability, and realizing that every struggle becomes a new strength, Ben decided to apply to join the NYAC for NN4Y to use his knowledge and experience to continue working hard to find solutions and stability for those still facing hardships in their lives. He hopes to connect with more strong minded individuals through his journey on the NYAC in the hopes of ending youth homelessness.

Jimmy Ramirez
Jimmy Ramirez
Jimmy Ramirez is a Government, Justice & Peace, and Film & Media graduate of Georgetown University in Washington DC. He hails from outside San Francisco, California and experienced homelessness during his Senior year of high school due to an insurmountable amount of financial and emotional stress taken on by his family. He was able to graduate from high school as student body president and Valedictorian, thanks to the support from his teachers–one of which took him into his home. At Georgetown University, he fell in love with the Jesuit values of social justice and leading life as a man for others. He has participated in advocacy work on and off campus. He went on to work for the California Homeless Youth Project, a nonpartisan policy initiative dedicated to bringing an end to youth homelessness. As a consultant, Jimmy worked alongside homeless youth, service providers, researchers, and policy makers to assist in developing comprehensive strategies and solutions that hope to bring an end to youth homelessness. After leaving the project, he served on the student board of the Georgetown Scholarship Program as the Chair of Advocacy. He is employed at Google, where he also interned helping nonprofits and small & medium businesses with marketing strategies.

As a formerly homeless youth, Jimmy is passionate about ending the issue of youth homelessness and all of the intersecting issues that encompass the problem. He has also invested himself into dialoguing about sexual assault and the importance of consent. In addition, he cares about the access to education, immigration reform, race relations, and transgender discrimination

Jimmy has joined the National Network For Youth because of the organization’s dedication to educate policy makers by bringing primary stakeholders and formerly homeless youth into a room to identify the best solutions as possible. He is excited and proud to work with the NN4Y, an organization that has made significant strides in affecting federal policy on the issue of youth homelessness.

Jessica Romero
Jessica Romero
Jessica Romero hails from Michigan and is committed to leading a social media campaign to raise awareness about youth homelessness, and directly connect with and empower youth to participate in developing solutions to issues impacting her generation. She believes that social media can be used to connect youth with the services and information they need to advocate for themselves and find available resources.
Benjamin Saldana
Benjamin Saldana
Benjamin Saldana is 20 Years old from Bridgeport, CT. He has been doing work alongside law enforcement in his community for several years. The unique thing about Ben’s work is that he does it through performing arts. He writes and directs plays based around real life issues youth face alone, as well as with law enforcement and their communities.

 

The organization he has worked with in Connecticut is called “Creative Youth Productions.” A non for profit performing arts organization geared toward keeping youth informed, active, and off the street. Ben has done a lot of work around Criminal justice, Gun Violence Prevention, and Juvenile Justice Reform, with CJJ, OJJDP, and Generation Progress by attending forums, retreats, summits and conferences. After facing housing instability, and realizing that every struggle becomes a new strength, Ben decided to apply to join the NYAC for NN4Y to use his knowledge and experience to continue working hard to find solutions and stability for those still facing hardships in their lives. He hopes to connect with more strong minded individuals through his journey on the NYAC in the hopes of ending youth homelessness.

Courtney Smith
Courtney Smith
Courtney Smith is no stranger to doing the boots on the ground work, having spent many years as a nonprofit professional and consultant with national and local organizations – Courtney is committed to positive youth development and helping break the cycle of poverty. She is the Founder and Program Director of Detroit Phoenix Center (DPC).   In this role, she provides visionary and servant leadership to a completely volunteer driven organization. DPC exists to provide young people who are experiencing homelessness with resources needed to improve health, wellness and self-sufficiency.  She is also a founding member of the City Wide Task Force on Homelessness with Detroit Councilwoman Mary Sheffield and a Task Force Ambassador for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Youth and Children.

She is excited to serve with the NYAC  because she’s able to see first hand the role that federal policy plays in implementing change on the local level. She is also excited to share this unique opportunity with millennial leaders who have similar lived experiences, but varied approaches to tackling social issues. Courtney has been  featured in USA Today, Break Thru Radio and appeared on the Katie Couric Show.  She is a two-time recipient of the Spirit of Detroit Award, a recipient of the Women of Excellence Award and a Road to Completion Scholar.  Courtney received a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Eastern Michigan University, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership and Entrepreneurship from the Colangelo College of Business.

Sasha Vaquera
Sasha Vaquera
Sasha Vaquera joins our team 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.