Octavia Lacks spent 5 years in Pennsylvania's foster care system.

Octavia Lacks has a lot to be proud of. She is flourishing in her freshman year at Harrisburg Area Community College. She has been a leader with the PA Youth Advisory Board since 2011. She helped organize a fantastic Stakeholder’s Banquet to provide youth in foster care the opportunity to speak directly with administrators, judges, agency workers and others in the child welfare system. The event gave young people the chance to provide valuable feedback and insights to care providers and administrators.

Octavia is a tireless leader and supporter of the local Youth Advisory Board. She serves on workgroups, supports other aspiring youth leaders and as a respected alumni of the Board, is always around, it seems, to provide support and encouragement. Octavia also found time to help plan and then participate in the Child Welfare Resource center annual PA Older Youth Retreat.

The Women’s Leadership Council in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, honored Octavia as the Keynote Speaker at their Purse Auction, a popular United Way event. She has received recognition from judges, administrators, IL and caseworkers for her continuous help with mentoring programs, and ongoing work with youth in foster care.

And despite all the energy her many activities require, she devotes her intellectual skills and acquired knowledge working with the University of Pittsburg Pennsylvania Child Welfare department.

Octavia entered foster care when she was 14 years old, following years of abuse and homelessness. After placements with 9 families, and now almost 19, she feels she finally has found a stable place to call home. Through all the challenges in her young life, Octavia was determined to stay connected to her family. She keeps her brothers and sister in her life she says, because “You don’t have to be a product of your environment(s), but you can still have a relationship with people from that part of your life.”

Octavia explains her work to improve the Child Welfare System, “If each person advocates for themselves and the youth coming after them, it can make a world of difference.” She encourages young people to make a positive impact. “We can make a difference for the youth coming after us. It just takes a little time, patience and dedication. Every youth has gone through something in life. You have a voice and you matter. It is your time—speak up!”

This girl has a voice, and it is going to take her places!

Team(s) or Cohort(s)
2014 Outstanding Young Leaders