Meet the 2021 - 2022 FYS Statewide Board
Rebekka "Bek" Behr Chair
Hi all! My name is Rebekka Behr!
I am 23 years old and I graduated from The Florida State University double major in Family & Child Sciences and Sociology with a minor in Business in 2020. I was placed in foster care at the age of 16 and aged out of care in 2016. Since then I have been advocating for change in the foster care system with Florida Youth SHINE and at FSU with the Unconquered Scholars Program. I am passionate about the advocacy work that I do as I know it can lead to better lives for children in foster care and those who have aged out. With being on the FYS Statewide Board last year, I have worked with my board members during this transition to online advocacy work and realized how beneficial it can be too many youths in Florida. My ultimate goal is to build a nonprofit that works with youth in foster care and youth who experience homelessness during their time in high school to help better assist their transition to adulthood. As your Chair, I plan to utilize my past experience with being a Sister of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Incorporated and various other boards to work with youth across the state of Florida in the most proficient way possible during COVID-19 to ensure their needs are being met.
Hello everyone! My name is Brian Thompson!
I am 22 years old and I am currently majoring in Music Composition. I was in care from the age of 16 until I aged out at 18. My time in care was well except for a few times I didn't know my rights. One of those times was being separated from my sister. When I, myself entered into care that was the second time my sister and I were separated from each other. The first was when she went into the foster care system. Having to endure that pain for a second time definitely made me feel as if I was reliving my trauma from my first experience. Especially because my sister was my first best friend. She was also one of the first people in my life to truly embrace me fully for who I am. I wish every day that I knew I had the right to see my sister so I would not have to play catch up with the time we lost. The other time my rights were violated was when I did not go to court except for when I was aging out of care. Throughout my entire time of care, I have always heard about my court dates and even asked if I was told about them (after the fact). I was even asked if I wanted to go, to which I said yes, but I was still left out of my court dates. If I would have known that I had the right to go to court I would have truly fought for myself to go. Anyone who is involved with the system can tell you that court is one of the most essential parts of being in care. I missed out on a major part of my experience that could have shaped my time in care to a better one.
Hello everyone! My name is Tierra, Tee for short!
I am 21 years old and currently attending Palm Beach State College as an Honors student with my future goal to become a juvenile judge. I was placed in foster care when I was six and was adopted at 15 just a few months before my 16th birthday. After being adopted, I was kicked out on my 18th birthday. I am an advocate as no youth should have to experience what I experienced. Fostercare, while a huge part of my story, does not define me. The abuse, trauma, and hardships I’ve endured made me stronger and fueled my passion for advocacy and change. I want every foster youth, including myself, to know that they mean something. I strive to inspire, empower and educate about the struggles foster youth experience while also growing and healing myself from a past that could not break me. When I was 15, I changed my middle name to Legend because someday, that is who I will be. Not a terrible statistic or byproduct of such a tragic environment. I am super excited to be a part of the FYS Board as a delegate making a difference alongside incredible and strong advocates, just like myself!
Hi everyone! My name is Shawn Mitchell!
I am currently 22 years old. I am currently at USF and majoring in social work and minoring in sociology. I entered care at 3, adopted at 6, and was placed back in care at 9 due to abuse from my adoptive parents. It took 4 years to finally be heard and that is why I am passionate about youth having a voice. It shouldn't take 4 years for someone to listen to me about my rights and wishes. So many times youth are looked over and looked at that they do not know what they are talking about but when youth are given the chance to express themselves or have a voice on their case they will be more successful and feel that they have control in their life and their future.
I am excited to be on the FYS Board so I can reach out to youth and share my experience to make a difference in the foster care system and make positive changes in the system for future youth.
Hi! I’m Martavius Lowery!
I am a 24-year-old former foster youth. I am currently a Claims Adjuster where I help people restore their lives. I spent roughly 18 years within the foster care system. Being in care had its moments. I used to run away from my placements to look for my mom because I didn’t think I was being treated fairly. When I was 13, I knew I wanted to be a part of my case and advocate for myself. I started becoming more involved with my case and knowing my rights, which I think is critical for all youth in care. I want to empower and advocate for youths while trying to reform the child welfare system in Florida. I’m very passionate about youths in care having a fair chance to live a normal life. It is one of my goals to see all foster youth be successful once they age out of care and live normally. I am glad to serve on the board again this year. I’m excited to collaborate with other board members and develop deeper connections, as we all work to change infrastructures and advocate on behalf of youth in care.
Hi everyone! My name is Kyle Johnson!
I am 20 years old and I’m excited to be working on the Statewide Board this year! I am currently attending the University of Central Florida for my Bachelor’s in Social Work. I was placed into foster care at the age of 14 and aged out when I turned 18 in 2019. During my time in care, I was placed in a group home setting for the first two years. After that, I transitioned into non-relative care with my close friend’s family. That transition was the first time I was given the opportunity to be involved in my case and advocate for myself. It was because of that opportunity that I was able to move and remain at my high school. For the last year, I have been working with FYS to help advocate for and empower my peers to be successful despite experiencing foster care. I have learned a lot about Florida’s Child Welfare system since joining FYS and have had the amazing opportunity to work with my peers to make an impact on the future of our foster youth. I look forward to the change we can continue to make together!
Hi everyone! My name is Selena Rose Young!
I am 23 years old and I’m currently a junior at Florida Gulf Coast University working on my Bachelors in Social Work. I was put in foster care when I was 15 years old. People say it's abnormal for teenagers to enter foster care, but it does happen. My first placement was at a group home, the second was a non-relative placement which didn’t last long, and my last placement was at a licensed foster home. At the age of 16, while I was living at my foster home, I had the option to be put up for adoption. I had personal reasons why I chose not to. That is why I left foster care at 18. I was at that foster home until I moved into my college dorms in August 2018. Years before, I entered foster care. I wanted to earn a Bachelors's in Resort and Hospitality Management. I still want to earn that degree, but I also had an interest in wanting to work in the foster care system because of my experiences. Because of that, I choose to take a break from culinary and pursue my other dream. After I graduate, I plan to transfer to Florida State University (FSU) for my Masters. I might get a Minor in Psychology also. Having a voice for foster care means a lot to me in so many different ways. One is, I was never explained my rights while in care. As a result, I had to find out about my grandfather's passing 6 months after. I don’t want any child in care to not see their family members and go through what happened to me. That is one of the many reasons why I love what FYS does for youth in care. I am delighted that to be one of the persons selected for the position. I promise that I will be a phenomenal Board Delegate Member and I can't wait to start this new “chapter” in my life.
Meet the Staff!
Florida's Children First
FYS Statewide Director
Geori Berman joined Florida’s Children First as the Florida Youth SHINE Coordinator in June 2013. As Coordinator, her goal is to provide a space for young adults to share their voice and advocate for positive change in the child welfare system. Geori’s main goal is to assist our chapters by providing support and tools to create long-term sustainability and opportunities for youth to advocate in their communities. Geori’s core purpose in life is to empower future leaders to become positive change-agents in the world and she realizes that learning is the biggest equalizer in life.
Geori’s background focuses on social change, leadership development, social justice, and student programming. Prior to joining FYS, Geori received her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from University of The Pacific while also working as a Residence Director for the Housing and Greek Life Office. Geori has additional work experience as: an Americorps member in South Florida, the Graduate Assistant for the Enough is Enough Anti-Violence Campaign, the Delegation Coordinator for The Global Center For Social Entrepreneurship, a Campus Representative for The Clinton Global Initiative University, and the Chair of Assessment for the LGBTQIA Western Regional committee.
Geori received her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Communications from Florida Atlantic University. In her free time she loves traveling, food, learning, being outdoors, going to farmers markets and volunteering.
Florida's Children First Executive Director
Christina Spudeas has been a long time advocate for delinquent and dependent youth in Florida. For the past two decades, Christina has worked tirelessly to defend the rights of children who are in the custody and supervision of state agencies or state contracted providers. Her diverse background includes child-related public policy reform, legislative reform, and state advocacy for dependent and delinquent youth.
Prior to working with FCF, Christina was an Assistant Capital Collateral Regional Counsel for the Southern Region, representing prisoners on Florida’s death row. She is also a former Attorney and Regional Director for the Agency for Community Treatment Services (ACTS), where she provided direct services to children in the child welfare, delinquency and mental health systems in South Florida.
In addition to her work experience, Christina has extensive public speaking and training experience, including presenting to the judiciary, public defenders, state attorneys, legislators, community-based service providers child welfare and juvenile justice staff across the county. She has also served as an adjunct professor teaching criminal justice courses at Florida Atlantic University for more than 15 years.Christina is a member of the Florida Bar and Federal Bar (Southern District of Florida).
She received her bachelor’s degree in Social Psychology from Florida Atlantic University and her J.D. from Loyola University of Chicago School of Law.
Florida's Children First
FYS Statewide Coordinator
Maria Batista has joined Florida’s Children First staff as the Florida Youth SHINE Statewide Coordinator. Maria’s professional and educational background coupled with her lived experience in the foster care system equips her with the tools, skills, and perspective to empower youth to become leaders and advocates around the State of Florida.
Maria received her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Florida International University. Prior to this role, Maria worked at the Guardian ad Litem program and with youth experiencing homelessness at Vita Nova.
Maria is a dedicated advocate and speaker for child welfare reform. She has worked on key legislation and policies that have improved thousands of children’s lives in care. Her passion and advocacy journey began right here in Florida Youth SHINE as a teenager, when she became a member of Florida Youth SHINE. Growing up, Maria spent seven years in the Florida Foster Care system and saw the injustices that youth experienced first-hand. That drove her to devote her career to empowering youth to use their voices and lived expertise to make positive change in the foster care system while providing a safe and inclusive environment for all youth who have experienced the foster care system.
With her years of experience with FYS, she has seen how youths are the movers and shakers and the ones who are committed to improving the foster care system. Maria is ecstatic to join Florida’s Children First Team in this role and provide opportunities to ensure youth have an authentic voice and are included in all discussions and decisions about the child welfare system and their lives.