Rayshaun: Member

Rayshaun Wilburn, 22

“CYC has been a game changer for me,” says Rayshaun Wilburn, 22, who has been a member of the Riverside Chapter for the past several months, and is already acting co-chair. “I had been going through some troubles, and CYC has given me a new sense of hope, and it’s not a fake sense of hope. It’s real.”

Rayshaun had been looking for an opportunity to build his leadership skills. “I want to influence the generation under me,” he says, “because I have so many siblings coming up through the foster care system. CYC was exactly what I’d been looking for without even knowing it.”

Not long after he joined CYC, Rayshaun boarded a plane for the first time in his life, heading to Sacramento for the summer conference. Not sure what to expect, Rayshaun says he spent the first day of the conference slowly warming up to his fellow members, “but not really feeling open to them yet because of everything I was going through.”

The third day of the conference was, coincidentally, Rayshaun’s 22nd birthday. “I was in a dorm at Sonoma State University,” he says, “a place I’ve never been, and I was just thinking how many more times am I going to have these new beginnings without someone saying they’re proud and they love me?”

Then Rayshaun went downstairs. “And the first thing I saw were the streamers,” he says.

“To see those streamers and my name, and they’d gotten little things that I like — I was thinking these aren’t even people taking care of me, these are people just attending this conference with me but they did all this. I’ve never had anything like that done for me before.”

“CYC helped me feel like a kid again,” says Rayshaun. “I think for most foster kids when you get to feeling stone-hearted, like I did, that’s one of the hardest things to do, let yourself break down through that and feel appreciated. Even as I was stepping up to be a professional and taking on responsibility in CYC, I felt like a kid again, in a good way.”

That same day, Rayshaun got up on stage and performed for the biggest audience of his life with a fellow CYC member. “We really reached that audience,” he says. “It felt like everything I’d been through was worth it. I felt that self-love and teamwork CYC is all about. And I was thinking right there how I could take that back home, and when my little brothers and sisters ask me what’s possible, I can say: Look, as small as it can feel sometimes here in this corner of the world, there’s someone out there to listen to you and tell you how great you are and how proud of yourself you should be, which makes you love yourself more.”

Asked what he considers CYC’s biggest impact over its 30-year history, Rayshaun doesn’t hesitate: “Getting extended foster care passed. Without that, I would’ve been stuck out on the streets. That’s what CYC did for me. They saved my life because extended foster care helped me have the confidence to develop a plan to create some stability.”

Now fully devoted to CYC, Rayshaun plans to learn as much as he can and “be completely involved.”

“CYC helps me appreciate what’s going on in my life rather than looking down on myself and my situation,” he says. “Instead of feeling regretful and undeserving, now it’s more like: I never noticed I was capable of doing this! I’m good at this so that allows me to put my time and energies into building up my leadership, which is what I’ve always wanted to do.”