Foster Skills

Marquis Landon Cabrera from Boston, MA

The Project

After experiences working at City Year, The White House, and The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, our founder, Marquis Cabrera, took a juvenile law course with Massachusetts Supreme Court Chief Justice Roderick Ireland in which he was required to sit in on cases at the Boston Juvenile Court. There, he witnessed many heart-wrenching care and protection cases and was quickly reminded of his experiences in foster care and the appalling challenges facing foster children (for instance, less than 2% of foster youth graduate from college, and less than 10% graduate from high school). After thoroughly researching the foster care system, conducting focus groups with successful foster care alumni, and independently mentoring foster children, Marquis decided to improve the life outcomes for foster youth. He founded Foster Skills with a bold mission of empowering foster children to beat the urgent odds, follow their dreams, and become successful, productive citizens. Our unique model allows foster children to connect with college students who provide emotional stability, teach practical soft and hard skills, and expose foster youth to life outside of their Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhoods. There are many resources for foster youth, but in our experience they are fragmented and sometimes difficult to find. We’ve developed working relationships with related nonprofits, such as: YES Kids, Rise Above, and Together We Rise. We are working hard to create a collective impact in foster care.

The Progress

Foster Skills has grown exponentially with support from 51 committed student volunteers, a stellar senior leadership team, and 19 fantastic board members. We have connected with over 150 foster youth to provide social support systems; performed 68 ‘How To’ workshops; put together a Massachusetts-specific Foster Youth Handbook that has been used by over a thousand foster youth; launched the Foster Youth In Action Blog, an outlet for successful foster care alumni from around the country to share their voices and stories; created a theme song; developed twenty-three partnerships; held a social protest in Massachusetts to advocate for sibling visitation rights and educational stability. University of Texas Professors are working hard to provide us with pre- and post- survey instruments to measure our skills learned and gather significant data. We have been working to build out a relationship with Smarterer to use their ‘gamification’ skills training platform to get students more excited about learning soft and hard skills. We also have partnered with Learn To Be Foundation to provide access to online tutoring services. We’re developing “MyHome,” putting together a social networking site for foster children, preparing to consult The Murrow Orphanage in Oklahoma and Michigan's Department of Children and Families on youth aging out of foster care, and meeting with MA's Department of Children and Families who has considered outsourcing their statewide life skills program to us.

The Team

Our founder, Marquis Cabrera, was in foster care until age 15, when a family adopted and empowered him to achieve success. Growing up, he also had a very strong village and community of people empowering him to beat the odds. Marquis graduated with high honors from Middletown High School. He was nominated to the Air Force Academy by The Honorable Hillary Clinton and Congressman Maurice Hinchey, but decided to attend Northeastern University, where he graduated magna cum laude. Marquis has a strong track record of significant, proven leadership; he is an analytical, tech savvy innovator with a heart of gold who believes in both efficiency and “just doing things.” He is a personable wonk and hard worker. He understands: the importance of practical (real world-related) education, the power of collaboration, and truly believes that every foster child can achieve life success. Another great thing about Marquis is he knows how to recruit and talent manage very well. So when he had the idea for Foster Skills he immediately called friends: Jessica, a McKinsey consultant and Hollins, a JD/MBA candidate at Yale and Harvard. Then, he recruited James, a TFA corps member; Jenn, a behavioral health professional; Dorota, a tax associate at PwC; Nicole, a designer; Eddie, who worked at CERN; Bart, a web developer at Swipely, and many more people to (fearlessly!) turn his vision into a reality. As a result, Foster Skills has been featured in numerous media outlets.

The Fearless Changemaker

As a child I was in foster care. I was accepted into the Delta Honors Program but, as a result of multiple foster care placements, I was not able to attend beyond 6th grade. Fortunately, I was adopted at age 15 by great parents who provided a solid support system and set high standards for academic achievement. In high school, I was commanding officer of our NJROTC unit and vice president of student government. I graduated in the top 5% of my class and I was nominated by then Senator Hillary Clinton and Congressman Maurice Hinchey to go to The Air Force Academy. However, I decided to follow my heart and attend Northeastern University. While at NU, I was pledge class President and officer of The Kappa Sigma Fraternity when we won Fraternity and Student Group of The Year in 2009 and 2010, winning campaign manager of the 2008 student body elections, founding president of Northeastern’s pre-law chapter of Phi Alpha Delta, and co-founder of The Boston Dialectical Society. I was selected as a Kairos Society Global Fellow and Opportunity Nation Scholar. I was also awarded 100 Most Influential Seniors, Terry Mena Social Justice Award, and selected as valedictorian of The College of Criminal Justice. To me, beating the odds [and witnessing the glee on my adopted parents faces after graduating from both high school and college] is my “proudest accomplishment.”

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