“It is a great honor to be elected as the first Hispanic-American Chairwoman for the StandUp for Kids National Board of Directors. Our values are, and always have been, deeply rooted in the inclusivity of service for all regardless of race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity, and religion. This enhancement of the diversity of the Board is a significant reflection of StandUp for Kids’ commitment to living those values within our own leadership,” said Verastegui.
Ms. Verastegui continued, “As Chairwoman, I’m committed to elevating StandUp for Kids and amplifying the voice of homeless youth by providing them with the services they need on the street and advocating for the Homeless Children and Youth Act (HCYA). If this legislation passes Congress, it will change the definition of “homelessness” to allow thousands of youth and families to be eligible for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Continuum of Care Program. This program provides funding for efforts by non-profit providers and state and local governments to rehouse homeless individuals and families quickly.”
Advocating for this legislation will be a primary focus for StandUp for Kids Board members. On December 14, 2021, HCYA was reintroduced by members of the United States House of Representatives and is currently under review by both houses of Congress.
StandUp For Kids Core Programs
The organization is driven to empower homeless youth toward lifelong personal growth, through being there for them in their most vulnerable moments and helping them see the possibilities ahead. StandUp for Kids operates four core programs in cities around the country:
- Street Outreach: Street Outreach counselors go out to meet kids who are unhoused where they are and distribute food, clothing, hygiene products, resource information, and referrals to services.
- Outreach Centers provide safe and protective environments for unhoused youth to gather and receive support. There are eight centers around the country, each providing the support network for basic human needs and development through educational programs and one-on-one counseling.
- Housing Support: StandUp for Kids teams help young renters build a life centered around community, with support that includes assistance in locating and taking care of an apartment, and life skills training.
- Mentoring: Acting as guides, role models, and accountability partners, mentors help youth develop and execute a goal plan. Weekly sessions are conducted in school, after school and in Outreach Centers.
According to Kim Sisson, Executive Director at StandUp for Kids Tucson, “At StandUp for Kids we treat one life at a time, moving unhoused youth from surviving to thriving. Our amazing group of volunteers from across the country meet them on the streets at well-known “hotspots” where youth congregate, as well as at our Outreach Centers, to distribute needed items such as food, water, blankets, clothing, hygiene products, and help them to find shelter.”
StandUp for Kids Board Members
StandUp for Kids has a board that is diverse in gender, race/ethnicity, and age. With a breadth of knowledge and perspective, each member brings their own personal and professional experience to the service of the organization – to plan, manage risk, make prudent decisions, and make the most of opportunities to take StandUp for Kids to the next level.
Maria Verastegui (Board Chairwoman) has spent 24 years successfully building brands and leading high-performing brand teams in the healthcare industry. Maria holds a BA in Graphic Design from Yale University.
Catherine Ballowe (Board Vice-Chairwoman and Treasurer) has over 25 years of experience in auditing, accounting, and financial management. Catherine holds a BA in Accounting from Southwestern University.
Kelly Fields (Board Secretary) has 20 years of non-profit experience coupled with over ten years in corporate human resources. Kelly holds a BA in Applied Behavioral Sciences from National Louis University.
Carlos Aponte (Member at Large) is a Hispanic-American with more than 25 years of professional experience in financial management with different consumer product goods, publishing, and telecommunication companies. Carlos holds a BS in Accounting & Finance from Northeastern University.
Maggie McWhorter (Member at Large) is a 10-year Veteran of the United States Army and has over 25 years of experience in supply chain management. Maggie holds a BS in Business from the University of Colorado.
Dr. Letitia Wright (Member at Large) is an African-American Chiropractic Physician now working as a business consultant, crowdfunding expert, and talk show host. She teaches at California State University and at the Excellerated Business School for Entrepreneurs in Thailand.
Kedric Sledge (Member at Large) is an African-American state-licensed mental health professional, currently working as a school social worker at Frank McClarin High School in Atlanta. Kedric holds a BA in Communication from Ferris State University and an MSW from Clark Atlanta University.
About StandUp for Kids
At StandUp for Kids, a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, our mission is to help end the cycle of youth homelessness in cities across America, one youth at a time. Since 1990, we have cared for homeless youth ages 12-24 by transitioning them from crisis to connection. We give our youth a sense of safety, hope, and belonging through housing support, mentoring, drop-in centers, and street outreach.
StandUp for Kids has chapters in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, District of Columbia, and Washington. More details can be found at standupforkids.org/where-we-are. Please visit standupforkids.org or connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube to learn more.
Ariane Wolff, Senior Vice President
SOURCE StandUp for Kids