MEET SHARRICA: VOLUNTEER SUPPORTER

Sharrica Miller, Volunteer Supporter & Tonisha Miller, Member

After earning her BA at Howard University, and her master’s in nursing at Cal State Long Beach, Sharrica Miller landed a coveted spot in UCLA’s doctoral nursing program. For her dissertation, she knew she wanted to study the health needs of transition age foster youth. This was a topic near to Sharrica’s heart because not long before she entered UCLA, she had been a transition age foster youth herself. Still in her twenties when she embarked on the PhD, she was also working and raising her teenage sister.

Sharrica’s dissertation chair suggested she contact CYC to help her connect with foster youth to participate in her study. That first CYC meeting five years ago brought Sharrica much more than she had been looking for. She met “a group of very dedicated, very engaged, very on-fire youth.” She soon had recruited enough foster youth for her doctoral study, and had found a “new home base.”

She joined the Los Angeles chapter as an adult supporter and brought her sister Tonisha, then 17, who became a member. Tonisha also felt immediately at home in CYC. “When you first walk in the door,” she says, “there is this element of happiness. Everybody appreciates and accepts and helps each other, and that’s really amazing.”

For both Sharrica and Tonisha, being in CYC has been transformative.

“It’s a place where we can be free of the stigma of being a foster youth,” says Sharrica. “It’s an immediate understanding. When you say something, everyone gets it. You don’t have to go into details, and that’s a good feeling.”

Tonisha took on leadership roles at CYC events, going to Sacramento for the first time and meeting with legislators. After giving birth to her son two years ago, she has continued to attend as often as she can, and appreciates that the meetings are “very child-friendly.”

Through CYC, Sharrica learned about the newly forming Director’s Child Welfare Advisory Council for LA County Department of Children and Family Services. Being on that council, Sharrica says, “was very empowering at a time when I needed to be empowered. I was trying to get my study off the ground and was feeling like an imposter at UCLA, feeling like I didn’t fit in with the students from other backgrounds so being selected for the council, and being elected co-chair, having that trust placed in me, knowing that the recommendations I give could potentially affect children in Los Angeles County was very empowering and inspiring.”

After receiving her PhD, Sharrica is now a professor of pediatrics at Cal State Fullerton School of Nursing.