Dawn Folsom

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Dawn Folsom

Executive Director
Project United Alliance
Fort Wayne, Ind.
(260) 417-6510

Age: 22.

Salary: $40,000.

My Organization: Folsom began to design the concept for Project United Alliance – to engage and empower youth in foster care or involved with the juvenile system – five years ago, but got it officially registered as a nonprofit in March. Project United Alliance also provides volunteers who teach youth in Indiana the life and social skills they need to live independently as adults. Folsom’s vision for Project United Alliance includes generating green jobs, such as urban farming and manufacturing goods locally, which would be provided to needy families. Folsom plans for the project to target low-income areas and thereby create jobs for youth involved in its programs.

My Job: Folsom’s job entails both advocacy and providing support networks for the organizations and youths involved with the foster care and juvenile justice systems. “Currently, it’s more paperwork,” she said. “However, I teach workshops and facilitate trainings that help youth and adults that are involved in their lives to better understand themselves, communicate and know practical resources that will help them throughout their term in care and during transition from adolescence to adulthood – things that I’ve learned through personal experience that I feel I can break down and enable people to understand.”

How I Got Here: Folsom grew up in foster care and wants to offer others in foster care the tools to succeed as adults. She is working toward an associate’s degree in liberal arts at Ivy Tech Community College. She has devoted thousands of volunteer hours working with youth involved with foster care; facilitating workshops, focus groups and public meetings; and being an active member of Foster Care Alumni of America and the Juvenile Justice Task Force of Indiana.

The best part of your job: “The hope I see in my future … knowing that I’ve contributed to my community, my state and my nation to let youth know their adversities are their biggest strength, and empowering them to take pride in their situation and dare to dream of a better tomorrow,” Folsom said.

The worst part of your job: “People not taking me seriously, due to my age, and people in power not recognizing the seriousness of youth disparities,” she said. “Whether we choose to recognize it now or not, we’re going to be the successors of America, and we can invest now and save later or keep ignoring what is inevitable: change.”

A memorable moment: “I was teaching a workshop in South Bend [Ind.], and I had a classroom full of young people,” Folsom said. “After my workshop, I had a young lady come up to me and ask me how she could be like me. I hope she knows one day, she is. That moment allows me to know why I’ve committed the time I have and why I won’t stop now.”