Sherika“You’re stupid!” “You’ll never amount to much…”
That’s what Sherika remembers hearing as she grew up in a dysfunctional family and then foster care. And she believed it. Even when her grades proved it wasn’t true, Sherika doubted herself. When she turned 18 and aged out of foster care, Sherika chose to participate in the YVLifeSet program.

She enrolled in college and was accepted into our YVScholars program that gives additional support to YVLifeSet participants as they complete higher education. “Every time I doubted, every time I wanted to give up, my YVLifeSet specialist Hannah Newbill was there to encourage me,” Sherika said. Hannah would tell her, “You are the smartest person I know. You can do anything you want.” Through the YVScholars program, Sherika had experiences she never would have imagined possible. She represented Youth Villages at the White House, singing with Grammywinning artists for Michelle Obama.

She was on stage in New York City with Steven Tyler, as the Aerosmith frontman launched Janie’s Fund to partner with Youth Villages to help girls across the country. Now, as a member of Tennessee’s Foster Care Review Board, Sherika is giving encouragement and advice to children and youth entering the state’s foster care system. She was the first person in her family to enter college and the first to graduate — with a 3.9 GPA and Magna Cum Laude.

“Thanks to your support Steven and the support from Janie’s Fund, I no longer see myself as that abused little girl anymore. I understand that there is life at the end of the tunnel and my past no longer defines me. You’ve taught me that a real hug is heart to heart and it was your words of wisdom and story that continue to move through my mind.

Meeting you has given me more hope that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to and the courage to aspire for greatness.”