Name: Anthony O’Leary (He/Him/His)
State: California
University: UCLA
Major: Sociology, Communications
Graduation Date: June 2023

SchoolHouse Connection’s Youth Leadership and Scholarships Program was a foundation of support when I was entering college. When I first received the scholarship, I thought I would just receive funds to help me attend college, but the program became so much more in my life. I’ve been provided a platform to share my story, advocate for those in situations like mine, and most importantly, build a strong connection and family with staff and scholars, and this has continued into today, my junior year of college.

Advocating for foster and homeless youth has been a dedication of mine since the age of 14 or 15, when I was finally out of the foster care system. It was at that time that I felt I needed to motivate those who were experiencing similar situations that I had, and let them know they are seen and there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel. Through my involvement with SchoolHouse, I’ve had opportunities to meet and educate government officials, local legislators, providers, and others in places of power to create change.

Image above: Anthony (top left) testified before the Senate Budget Committee and the Assembly Budget Committee in California and he participated in a virtual Congressional meeting with the office of Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA).

My initial opportunity to be an advocate through SchoolHouse was being involved in a social media project to educate young people experiencing homelessness on their rights within their states. Having the space to share my ideas and creativity was liberating, to say the least. Every opportunity that allows me to advocate is impactful. My favorite advocacy experience is being a fellow in SchoolHouse’s State Policy Fellows program and being a speaker at the Los Angeles County’s Foster and Homeless Student Symposium.

Ultimately, I advocate to recognize youth whose stories go untold. I advocate to highlight the fact that all homeless and foster youth are capable of reaching their goals and overcoming the immovable obstacles. I advocate in hopes that future generations of disadvantaged communities have even more opportunities than I did. I am so thankful for the support system and advocacy opportunities that SchoolHouse Connection provides, and I look forward to continuing this important advocacy work.

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