Kenisha Anthony entered the foster care system when she was 5 years old.
After she aged out at 18, she didn’t know where to go or what to do.
“When I aged out, I didn’t feel like my social worker had my best interest,” she said. “I wasn’t able to get independent living or any benefits. I didn’t know my rights. I got no help.”
Anthony wanted to keep that from happening to other foster children. She joined Florida Children’s First, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting foster children and other at-risk youth, in 2013.
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Since then, she has helped advise people who want to be guardians ad litem; volunteered during Children’s Week, a grassroots children’s event supported by more than 100 nonprofit, corporate and faith-based organizations; and advised people who want to become foster parents.
Last month, Florida Children’s First recognized Anthony and other community leaders at the nonprofit’s annual Miami Fundraiser and Awards Ceremony. She was given the Youth Advocate of the Year award for her work in the community and with children in the foster care system.
“I’m just doing things from my heart,” she said. “It meant a lot to me to be recognized for my hard work. I’m appreciative that people are looking at me and supporting my endeavor.”
Anthony, now 23, is a junior at Florida State University. She graduates in December with a bachelor’s degree in social work.
“I set goals and accomplished them day-by-day,” she said. “In high school, I realized you have to find a way to make it on your own.”
Before she graduates, Anthony wants to study abroad in London and Prague to work with victims of domestic violence and abuse.
Also recognized during the award ceremony was Rep. Erik Fresen (R-Miami), who was named Champion of Children’s Rights for sponsoring the Attorneys for Dependent Children with Special Needs bill in the House of Representatives. The piece of legislation provides attorneys the right to protect dependent children with disabilities who are in legal custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). The bill passed in July 2014.