Teen Conference Award Recipients

2012 Teen Conference Awards 

This year there a number of adult and youth partners who were recognized for their continued contribution and leadership on behalf of youth in care. Award nominations came from youth, adult partners or staff; award recipients were voted on by youth.

Friend of Youth in Care Award: Each year this award is presented to a caring adult who has exhibited leadership on behalf of youth in foster care.

Debbie Bechard, Friend of Youth in Care Award

Debbie Bechard

is the recipient of this year’s Friend of Youth in Care Award. Debbie works at Jobs for Maine’s Graduates (JMG) and coordinates the Opportunity Passport™ Program. Debbie was nominated by a young person because “she is a person who is very committed to the youth that she helps in Opportunity Passport™. She shows her commitment by attending meetings to help advocate for us and she s a very good leader and adult partner.”

Brad Lévesque Award:  Each year a young person between the ages of 15 and 21 is recognized for demonstrating an active commitment to youth leadership while enrolling in or attending post-secondary education. This year there were two recipients for this award.

Brad Lévesque Award to Mariah Trimble Smith

Mariah Trimble Smith

is a passionate, committed and compassionate YLAT member. Mariah uses her creativity, humor, and energy in activities that are aimed at improving policy and practice to achieve better outcomes for children in Maine’s foster care system. Currently, Mariah attends Southern Maine Community College and she plans to transfer to the University of Southern Maine in the fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work.

Brad Lévesque Award to Casey Smith

Casey Smith

is a champion for change and is working hard to improve the foster care system that he grew up in. He has high hopes and dreams for himself, for all of us, and for the child welfare system. Casey graduated from Job Corps and is working 30 hours a week while going to college full time.

Foster Care Alumni Award:  This year’s award was presented to two alumni to recognize their impact on YLAT and other system change efforts.

Foster Care Alumni Award yo Michael Augustine

Michael Augustine

serves on the Citizen Review Panel, a group that determines whether state and local agencies are meeting their responsibilities for child protective services. Michael participated in the Permanency Community Conversations effort: he attended a leadership retreat in February 2012 and spent much of the last several months traveling across Maine to make the community conversations a reality. Michael is currently enrolled as a graduate student in the School of Social Work at the University of Maine, Orono. He has been an important part of an effort to create supports for youth in care in post-secondary education.

Foster Care Alumni Award to Lakesha Shelton

Lakesha Shelton

was also awarded the Alumni Award. Lakesha has been an active YLAT member since 2005. She has taken on many YLAT efforts over the years, and now, as an alumni and adult partner in YLAT, she is a leader, a role model, and a mentor. Lakesha often says, “My favorite part about all of this is that I get to see all the young people grow and mature and have a voice.” Lakesha is a poet and has inspired all of us with her beautiful and moving words. She is a caring friend, a committed advocate, and truly a fun young woman.