Speaking courageously to make decisions that matter

Vianeli Garcia struggled with feelings of unworthiness through a childhood in foster care. "Oftentimes, I never had a say in what was going on in my own life," recalled the New York City teen. "That's when I made the decision to become a voice for the voiceless—to be involved in making decisions that matter."

She initially got the opportunity through Operation Exodus, a mentoring and tutoring program that receives training from World Vision, and through World Vision's Youth Empowerment Program. YEP helps vulnerable teens gain skills in leadership and civic engagement.

In YEP, Vianeli learned how to make policy recommendations to government officials and to mobilize others to join her in making her Washington Heights neighborhood a better place. She helped in efforts to combat underage drinking.

"I started to see the impact I could have," she said. "I felt empowered and determined to help youth all over the country, and (the feeling) still remains. I create events and community service projects."

Vianeli served on World Vision's National Youth Advisory Council, which advises the organization and ensures that decisions affecting young people have been considered by young people. She also is vice president of the Washington Heights and Inwood Youth Council, a
group that raises awareness of pressing community issues, such as
teen pregnancy, underage drinking, youth violence, and education.

Thanks to YEP, Vianeli said, "my voice is more courageous, more educated, and moving forward with great hope."