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She’s an excellent writer, a dedicated student, a caring older sister and a vocal advocate for change in the foster care system. Meet Gabbie Rodriguez, who will receive the Youth of the Year Award at the 2019 HSVS Annual Benefit: 150 Years of Family, on November 21. The award is presented to a youth “for outstanding achievements, and for exemplifying the values and principles of HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services,” and according to HSVS Executive Director Dawn Saffayeh, Rodriguez was an obvious choice.
“Over the past few years, we at HSVS have watched Gabbie grow from a remarkable teenager into an even more remarkable young woman,” says Saffayeh. “She has used her experience as a young person in foster care to become a tireless advocate for others in a similar position. Her passion and talent for public speaking helped a coalition of NYC foster care agencies secure $10 million in funding for young adults who grew up in foster care. I couldn’t be more excited to honor her as Youth of the Year in front of 600 people who I know will be as impressed by her resilience and determination as we are.”
We caught up with Rodriguez in between her day job and her college course work to find out what makes her tick as well as her reaction to being named Youth of the Year.
What makes you so passionate about foster care issues?
There are many flaws in our system and I will never settle for mediocrity. Being in care is out of a youth’s control and issues within the foster care system only compound the injustices they have already faced. I am passionate because it is the only way to be.
What are you currently studying?
I am studying early childhood education at the City College of New York.
What do you hope to do after you graduate?
I hope to become a kindergarten teacher and get my masters in early education.
What do you like to do in your downtime?
I spend time with my fiancé who, as cliché as it sounds, is my best friend. We enjoy trying new things together.
What does it mean to you to receive the award?
To be honest, I was surprised to receive the award and almost felt as though I didn’t deserve it. There are many youth in our agency who achieve amazing things against all odds. While I am honored to have my achievements recognized, I hope to shed light on the other youth who have also achieved great things, even by just continuing to survive every day. To receive this award means I am doing my part to change the perception of youth in care.