Sixto Cancel is a current undergraduate at Virginia Commonwealth University who grew up in foster care. His most recent project outside of being a full-time college student involves leading a long term effort called Think of Us, a commitment of action for the Clinton Global Initiative. Cancel also serves as a Youth Innovation Advisor to Dell and is a member of the Youth Thrive Expert Panel. Cancel has been named a Millennial Maker by BET and recognized as one of the Top 24 Changemakers under 24 in the country by the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council and Sparkaction. Cancel has been quoted on NPR’s “Tell Me More,” Fox News, and by the Huffington Post. Cancel presented issues facing black, LGBT youth in foster care at the White House’s Black LGBT Emerging Leaders Briefing.
Location: Richmond, VA, United States
- Issues Areas:
- Education Justice
Campus: VIrginia Commonwealth University - Richmond, VA
Fellowship Class Year: 2014
Featured Fellow Spotlight
What experiences/opportunities lead you to apply to the YP4 Fellowship program?
Sixto Cancel (SC): As a foster youth, I had little control of my rights and outcomes. I felt my growth and development was restricted by the system, my foster parents and eventually my adoptive parent. There was no one advocating for me so that I could be aware of my rights or resources available to me. I believe youth should be empowered in self advocacy so that they have control of what happens in their lives. Too often, they are unaware of their rights, or are being restricted by regulations put in place by the system that may restrict their development.
What social justice work are you currently doing in your communities, or on your college campuses?
SC: I started Think of Us, a non-profit geared towards empowering foster youth to advocate for themselves, as well as provide them with resources and concrete support in times of need. Think of Us has developed a web and mobile based life-coaching application that provides youth with resources, self-coaching activities, case management resources and the ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships with adults through a self-assembled advisory board. In addition to empowering youth to advocate for themselves by giving them the proper resources, it is also a way to keep the system accountable. Think of Us currently has two pilot sites, Santa Clara County and Omaha, Nebraska.
What are you passionate about/what motivates you to public service?
SC: I am passionate about foster youth advocacy. If it were not for the supportive adults in my life, I would never have been aware of my legal rights as a foster youth. Also, every year approximately 26,000 youth age out of the system with no support. I am to help give them support in their journey to become successful and thriving adults.
What is the main goal you want to accomplish in your social justice work?
SC: I want to see foster youth thrive in their adulthood despite any traumatic experiences they may have faced. I believe they deserve not just to survive, but to thrive.
Can you give an example of how your YP4 Fellowship helped you accomplish something meaningful for your community?
SC: I believe the biggest impact is changing the way someone thinks. For me, I had to realize how foster youth can experience limitations in a system designed to keep them safe, but also prohibits them from growing because they are not allowed to experience the same healthy development and risk taking as their non-system involved counterparts.
What piece of advice would you give to a current YP4 Fellows?
SC: I would advise that self empowerment is the most vital skill to have.
Can you summarize in one sentence the impact YP4 has had in your life?
SC: It will help me to train other youth to advocate for themselves.
What do you want to be remembered for?
SC: I want to be remember for helping change how youth view themselves and advocate for themselves so they can be healthy thriving adults.