Contact us at:

Florida's Children First

(954)796-0860

geori.berman@floridaschildrenfirst.org  

1401 N. University DR, Suite 408

Coral Springs, FL 33071

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Meet the 2018-2019 FYS Statewide Board 

Anna Zhang

Statewide Chair

Hi! I am Anna Zhang, a 22 year old former foster youth. I recently graduated from Florida A&M University, where I studied Criminal Justice and I will also be attending graduate school for a Masters degree in Criminology. I spent roughly 4 1/2 years in foster care, and it was a very emotional time in my life. I was in several foster homes and came into care with my younger sister. On multiple occasions we were separated and did not get to see each other. Keeping siblings together in foster care is important to me and my experience is what inspired me to advocate on behalf of all kids in foster care that may endure things I went through. I am excited to lead other youth in Florida Youth Shine and empower them to let their inner voice SHINE. It is important for youth in foster care to know they have a voice and to know that they can speak about things that need improvement. As a board member, it is my goal for others to join this important movement to seek ways to improve the quality of life in foster care.

Rebekka Behr

Fundraising Chair 

My name is Rebekka Behr. I am 21 years-old and I am a Senior majoring in Family & Child Sciences as well as Sociology with a minor in Business at The Florida State University. I aged out of the foster care system in 2016 and have been working to better the lives of foster youths. My ultimate goal is to build a nonprofit that works with foster youth and homeless youth in their high school careers. I love to travel, do photography, swim, and advocate for others. I am a Sister of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Incorporated and love spending time with my sisters as well. 
 

Ke-ana Nyres Durham

Legislative Chair

Hi! My name is Ke-ana Nyres Durham. I am 21 years old. I am super psyched to serve on the board as the Legislative Chair! I have been president of the Miami Chapter for about three years now and this is my first time serving on the board. I am currently a Senior at Florida International University (FIU), where I am studying Social Work with a Certificate in Public Policy. Ultimately, I plan to go straight through undergraduate to graduate school and pursue a Master of Science in Social Work, with a focus on Policy Practice. Then, obtain a Juris Doctorate, specializing in family, youth & children’s services.

 

At a young age I was subjected to abuse, neglected, and disruption during my childhood; moving back and forth between parents and relatives until age 16. At that time, my siblings and I were removed from our mother’s care. My siblings were placed with a relative, but I was not welcomed due to my relative blaming me for exposing the abuse, which ultimately caused us to be removed. The Child Protective Investigator did not place me in foster care and I received no services to help me deal with my trauma. I also did not qualify for any benefits given to former foster youth. Instead, I found a non-relative who welcomed me into their home. That was when I was able to truly experience a loving family. And I stayed there for 1 ½ years till I turned 18 and began college.

 

I credit the organization called H.A.N.D.Y. – who helps children in foster, relative, and non-relative care – with being able to connect me to resources and obtain the tuition waiver for homeless students. A life coach at H.A.N.D.Y. was the one that invited me to a Florida Youth S.H.I.N.E meeting in Broward County, where I was able to see the advocacy efforts! I have been apart of Florida Youth SHINE for 4 years now (since I was 18). My passion for advocacy comes from my experiences and inspiration from my journey. Through Florida Youth SHINE I have discovered the impact of my voice and how both my voice and story can be used to help others in the system. As President of the Miami Chapter, I have proven myself to be a true leader to my peers and have found issues where I feel change is needed.

Maria Batista

Membership Chair 

Hi Everyone! I am Maria and I am excited to be Florida Youth SHINE’s Membership Chair. At a young age, it was clear to me that I was going to be different than some of my friends at school or in the neighborhood. I entered into foster care when I was just nine years old. This was a positive experience for me, only because I ended up with wonderful foster parents who took me in, cared for me, and eventually adopted me. I am now 22 years old and have a lot to be proud of. Because I had a strong and stable family foundation, I was able to achieve certain milestones like getting a driver’s license, graduating with an A.A from Palm Beach State College, and working at a local non-profit until I recently left to attend Florida International University in Miami to major in Social Work with a minor in Criminal Justice. I am proud to be a strong advocate for Florida Youth SHINE. I attend local chapter meetings consistently, advocate on a state and local level, and always recruit for our chapter. I have traveled to Tallahassee to speak to legislators about policies and changes and helped educate people through numerous guest speaking events about child welfare. Additionally, I recently just finished a term as Treasurer for the Palm Beach County Youth Services. In a group called Future Leaders, I worked on our county’s master plan for improving services for homeless youth, and this plan will be released later this year, called Birth to 22. I am excited to bring my wonderful ideas and leadership to the Statewide Board this year.

Monyay Randall

Secretary

Hello my name is Monyay and I’m am 16 years old. I am currently part of the Manasota chapter and I am the Statewide Secretary. I am currently an early graduate which means that I am going into my senior year in high school a year early. I have been in foster care for about four years and it hasn’t been easy. I have been in F.Y.S for about three years and I won the Youth Advocate of the Year Award from Florida's Children First in 2017 and that meant so much to me.I have four little brothers and one little sister who I care deeply about. I live my life as their role model so that they can see that no matter what has happens in someone's life, good can be done. I work in a nursing home where I serve the elderly people and care for them. Being in F.Y.S has truly changed me in many different ways. I was always embarrassed about being in foster care. I thought that made me different from the other kids. F.Y.S empowered me to see a different side of that. It showed me that even though I do not have my parents, I do have people who still love me. It showed me that I have a voice . It showed me that I not only have a voice but I matter and that I am not different. It showed me who I truly am, an Advocate! It showed me why I am here and that is to change the lives of other foster kids coming behind me and that we are not alone!

Marc Louis

Events and Meetings Chair

Hi! I am Marc and I am excited to serve as the Events and Meetings Chair. I am from a place, where most people go to for vacation. I am from the Bahamas and for me it was not such a vacation. Growing up I watched my parents struggle to provide the basic needs for life such as: food, water, clothes and a shelter over my sisters and I heads. My mom was a maid and a babysitter and my dad cut grass and on a good day would get some carpenter work. We did not have enough money to provide for a family of five. Life was not picture perfect. We lived in a shack deep in the bushes, I wore my sisters clothing and father’s old clothes to school. I was ridiculed automatically because of my circumstance. Sadly, I did not choose it, it choose me.

One day I came home and my parents left without a trace, and we were then placed in the care of our aunt. As time passed my aunt decide that she could not afford to take care of my siblings and I all together. She sent my oldest sister to live in the US. Several years later, my sister brought me to the US for a better life. Upon arrival, we stayed with our cousin, but the chance of the American dream was short lived, because we became homeless. Coming to America was a culture shock. I was ridiculed because of my accent, which was not evident to me.

 

Fortunately, I was introduced to a program in called HANDY and they assisted in providing my sisters and I with housing and Employment as we got on our feet. During that time they introduced me to the most amazing advocacy program, F.Y.S. I have been involved in F.Y.S since I was 13. After the first couple months of attending their incredible meetings, I decided that I can be a part of the change for the kids that went through what I had or even worst. I dedicated my time to becoming a leader and traveling around the state. I even got to advocate nationally in Washington D.C. Currently I also work as an intern at Florida Youth SHINE. I am excited to use my experience this year on the board. 

Edward Grillo

Communications & Marketing Chair

Hiya! My name's Edward Grillo, and I am excited to be the Communications and Marketing Chair for Florida Youth SHINE. I'm currently working to get my high school diploma and move on to UCF for computer science and business administration. I've been in care for about 2 years now and I just turned 18.

While in care, I received the support I needed with positive role models, support networks, and was educated on important resources and services. That made my transition into adulthood recently much smoother than many other youth face. With the support of my biologicial family and mentors within the system I was empowered to be motivated to achieve my goals and have a voice within the process. Through FYS I have been able to build leadership skills and be empowered by many peers. I'm super excited to be working with Florida Youth. Through my leadership and commitment I look forward to being able to make things better for other youth and use my situation and experience as a positive example to how the system can support children in foster care to be successful.  

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Christina Spudeas

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.


EMAIL:CHRISTINA.SPUDEAS@FLORIDASCHILDRENFIRST.ORG 

 

 

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.

 

EMAIL: GEORI.BERMAN@FLORIDASCHILDRENFIRST.ORG

 

Meet the Staff

 

Geori Berman 

Florida's Children First 

FYS Coordinator