Justin Mercado

Position: (he/him/his)

I am a Youth Action Researcher with YouthNPower. I am a New York City native, who’s reserved, passionate and dedicated to this work. Despite my young age, I bring my insightful skillset and vast experiences to the field of advocacy. At age 19, I published my first Op-Ed regarding youth aging out of foster care during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. At that time, I was peer mediating as a senior in high school, helping my fellow youth succeed during a dire time. Since then I’ve been a rising star, working towards a change for foster youth in and aged-out of the system. Now attending college majoring in psychology (and on the honor society), I hope to give it my all, using personal experience in and outside of the system, my skills in the office, and my overall unique perspective to advocate for young people.

Why is this project important to you?
This project is important to me not just because of my given experience, but the mere idea of a change being made in systems that failed many like myself is exciting. Consistently, foster youth have been handed the short end of the stick when it comes to assistance, care, stability, and the very necessities needed to flourish in an unknown environment placed not by choice, but circumstance.

What do you hope to accomplish in this project?
It’s my hope that I accomplish the task that I’ve set out on with my team, to make a change for the better in one or a multitude of ways with the Direct Cash Transfer pilot and for those who receive it.

What have been some of your experiences in this project?
Working on this project, I have been meeting with various organizations like Exalt Youth and Youth Represent. I also spoke on a panel regarding the project during the national Proctor institute for Child Advocacy Ministry in Clinton, TN with a small team of dedicated, passionate and influential advocates with whom I have the pleasure of working alongside.

What are your hopes and dreams for other young people?
My hope is that even after the project has reached its end, that I have made a lasting impact of positivity and made the staggeringly imperfect foster care system apparent to those who can orchestrate the necessary change. My dream is that said systems will be improved and no child has to suffer rather than be safe in care despite unfortunate circumstances that led them, and that young people know it’s not the end, but only a moment in time.

Justin’s Favorite Things:
Author: Terri Woods
Color: Forest green
Book: True to the Game
Hobby: Poetry
Zodiac: Aries
Quote: “It isn’t where you come from, It’s where you’re going that counts” – Ella Fitzgerald