Meet the 2020-2021 FYS Statewide Board 

Maria Batista

Statewide Chair

Hi Everyone! I am Maria and I am excited to serve Florida Youth SHINE’s Statewide Chair! I was placed in foster care at the age of nine with my three siblings. By the age of 11, my siblings were all placed with their fathers and I remained in foster care until I was adopted at 16 by my wonderful foster parents. I am now 24 years old and have a lot to be proud of. I was able to achieve certain milestones like obtaining a driver’s license, graduated with my Bachelors in Social Work and a minor in Criminal Justice from Florida International University, and now working full-time within the child welfare system. 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. As your Chair, I plan to work with chapters across Florida to assist in any way I can during this unprecedented time.

Rebekka Behr

Vice Chair

Hi all! My name is Rebekka Behr. I am 22 years old and recently graduated from The Florida State University double major in Family & Child Sciences and Sociology with a minor in Business. 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 to many youth 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 Vice-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.

Colesha Cormier 

Statewide Board Delegate Member 

HI, my name is Colesha Cormier, I am 24years young! This is my last year as a youth in Florida Youth Shine and I am pretty excited to be a part of the board as a delegate. I have been a part of FYS for 5 on going years.  I am currently attending Miami Dade College where I am majoring in hospitality. Ultimately, my plan is to graduate and transfer to a University and continue to practice my studies in hospitality with a certificate in business, after which I'll pursue a master’s in psychology. One of the things I always knew my passion was even as a youth, is advocating.  Therefore, I am going to pursue my dream and obtain a Juris Doctorate specializing in immigration law, family, youth & children’s services. At a young age, I experienced a lot of abuse, neglect and trauma. I was placed in non-relative care at the age of 17 a month before my 18th birthday due to traumatizing experiences I had with my biological father. Although I had a real negative childhood, I have also been so grateful for the many support systems I had and still have in my life. Namely, my stepmom at the time, who gave me a home and mold me into the young adult I am today. My Guardian at Liem who became my mentor, also paved the way for me. Lawyers at the University of Miami helped me with trying to get funding and getting my tuition waiver. Organization such as Casa Valentina, Educate Tomorrow, Florida Youth Shine, The Women Fund, and so much more. I say that to say this. I realize that there is hope in our child welfare system, and I would like to be a part of that change in any way I can. Although I have had a rollercoaster past, I am aiming forward to having a successful final destination in my life while improving and helping others as well. Florida Youth Shine has helped me with my courage and dedication in being a part of using my powerful voice. I am very grateful of the woman I am becoming. Cheers, to an empowering year!

Holly Lazo

Statewide Board Delegate Member 

Hi! My name is Holly Cruz Lazo and I am twenty-two years old. I am from the Pinellas County chapter and I serve on the Youth Empowerment Leadership Council. I have been an active member of FYS, since I was sixteen years old. It will be my first year serving as a Delegate for the Florida Youth Shine Board. I have passion and dedication for advocating for the rights of foster youth across the state. I have traveled across the state and to Washington, D.C to speak on behalf of foster youth. I want to change the foster care system with my story and leadership. I hope from my story other foster youth will become empowered to make a difference in the foster care system. I am so excited to use my experience and skills on the board to help make an impact. I recently graduated from St. Petersburg College with my Associates in Criminology. Currently, I am a student at the University of South Florida. I am majoring in Criminology and minoring in Psychology for my bachelor’s. After I graduate, I plan on attending Florida State Law School to become a lawyer. I would like to work as a GAL Attorney after I graduate from Law School.  My life has not always been great, I have faced and overcome many challenges. From a young age, I was abused, neglected and lived in a disruptive home. I suffered emotional and physical abuse until I was fifteen years old. When I was fifteen, I was able to escape from the abuse after I was taken into the foster care system. My mother was unbale to care for me and my siblings because of her mental illness. I was separated from my brother and sister for many years. During this time, I was moved from one foster home to another one. I found a home at Brookwood Group for Girl’s in St. Petersburg, Florida until I aged out. I hope I can help change the child welfare system for the children coming behind me.

Martavius Lowery

Statewide Board Delegate Member   

Hi!  I’m Martavius Lowery, a 23 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 youth while trying to reform the child welfare system in Florida.  I’m very passionate about youth in foster 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. As a board member, 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.

Brian Thompson

Statewide Board Delegate Member  

My name is Brian Thompson I am 21 years old. I was in care for two years and aged out at the age of 18.  I have experienced sibling separation and I was not able to go to court while in care. Besides those two flaws I had a relatively good experience in care. However, my older sister Brianna did not. It was through her stories and experiences that I truly learned about the struggles that youth in care face everyday. Thanks to my sister I have become a passionate and outspoken member in FYS.  I am currently the president of the Broward chapter of FYS and a statewide member delegate.  I have also attended almost all quarterly meetings since I have joined and have lead many monthly meetings on a local level. I have even helped plan and organize said meetings. I have even been to three Children's Week out of my five years as a member and two DCF Summits. What helps me become a better advocate is hearing the stories of my peers as well as having the need to empower youth. I believe that the children are the future and if we empower them and teach them their rights there is nothing that can stop them.

 

Selena Young 

Statewide Board Delegate Member  

Hi everyone! My name is Selena Rose Young. I am 20 years old and I’m currently a sophomore at Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW). 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, 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 August 2018. Years before, I entered foster care. I wanted to earn a Bachelors 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. I am going to attend Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) to get my Bachelors in Social Work. Then transfer to Florida State University (FSU) for my Masters. I might get a Minor is 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. 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.

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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 

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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