Stockton native Ricardo Ramirez, age 20, was raised in foster care and lived in 38 foster homes from the time he was 12 years old. The experience had a profound effect, but it wasn’t until Ricardo got involved with the California Youth Connection (CYC) that he began to truly envision how his challenging past would help shape a brighter future for himself and community members in need.
Today, Ricardo is a tireless advocate dedicated to improving the foster care system in which his younger siblings still reside. For these efforts to make a difference, he was selected as one of five Rookie Playmakers drafted by the Levi’s® brand, in partnership with the 50 Fund, the legacy fund of the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee.
CYC is a youth-led organization that develops leaders who empower each other and their communities to transform the foster care system through legislative and policy change. Ricardo got involved with the organization in 2012 when a friend invited him to a meeting — he liked the idea of a youth-run group, and the concept kept him coming back.
“I credit CYC with developing me into a leader,” he said. “I see the empowerment in my local chapter meetings as well as at every Day at the Capitol and Summer Leadership and Policy conference we have. CYC sticks to its mission and helps to fix the issues we feel need to be fixed.”
Through CYC, Ricardo is raising his voice to advocate for other foster youth. He’s showing other youth that they can become who they want to be, regardless of where they began.
“Youth face unique issues and must stand up for themselves,” he said. “A lot of the time I feel youth issues are overlooked by adults and as a result go unnoticed. It’s important for young people to take an active roll if they want the issues fixed they need to voice the issue.”
As part of the Playmaker program, CYC will be awarded a $10,000 grant from the 50 Fund that will help support the Foster Youth Museum that’s currently set up at the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. The museum, Ricardo says, offers an inside look into some of the challenges facing foster youth today — from a youth’s perspective.
“This museum brings issues to light that otherwise would fly by unnoticed by the public,” he said. “It does a good job of breaking stereotypes and showing the resilience of foster youth and their dedication to breaking the cycle and changing the stats.”
For Ricardo, being drafted by the Levi’s® brand as a Rookie Playmaker reinforces his commitment to being a positive force for change.
“It’s an honor to be recognized by my favorite jean company for the work I love to do,” he said. “This award means I’m right where I’m supposed to be. It means my voice is being heard. It means I’ve proven to myself all that I needed to. I’ve become the leader I wanted to become.”
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