top of page

Our Mini Fellows

Marie Brañes

San Diego, CA

I am a graduate student at San Diego State University (SDSU), where I am completing my M.A. in Education with a concentration in Counseling. In addition to being a student, I am also a work readiness mentor at a San Diego non-profit called SBCS. Lastly, I am taking on a Graduate Assistant position with SDSU for our Guardian Scholars program--a foster youth support program located on our college campus.


I have learned a lot from identifying as a former foster youth, managing depression/anxiety, and living with Multiple Sclerosis(MS), these are only parts of me that do not define who I am but shape me. I find it empowering to use both my lived and work experiences to shape my perspective. They continue to fuel my passion for advocacy, wellness and education for oppressed populations, especially foster youth.

Marie Branes_edited.jpg

Brianna Lopez

San Diego, CA

I’m a former foster youth, current college student, full-time employee, mommy, and wife. I believe my identity as a foster youth has molded me into who I am today, and both the good and bad experiences still influence my current decisions. However, through all I have been through, I sum up my experience in foster care in one word: resilience.

I love poetry and creating collages, which is why I will be incorporating a bit of both in my mini fellowship project. I believe art in all forms is expressive. When words fail, art speaks.

I would like to share my feelings in a way that may resonate deeper than just words - for my audience, I want to paint a picture of my pain, my past, and my power.

Brianna Lopez_edited.jpg

Alexis Obinna

Los Angeles, CA

Alexis Obinna has been volunteering and giving back to various communities since the age of eight. She started with helping her foster mom watch over daycare children, trash removal at her school, painting her school, planting community gardens, and much more. In 2019 she graduated with her double associate's in sociology, and child development. She attended California State University Los Angeles, where she continued to fight and give back to various communities as a Social Work major. Alexis is a social and racial justice advocate and has fought for the rights of many people of color. She has collaborated with many nonprofits such as California Youth Connections, Los Angeles Reproductive Health Equity Program, the Department of Children and Family Services, Independent City, Youth-Led Participatory Action Plan research board, and so many more. She has been with CYC since 2014 and is honored to do great work to improve the child welfare system. In her free time, she enjoys practicing yoga and meditation, roller skating, collecting crystals, exploring her city, and making art. She plans on working in a space that provides equitable resources and fair chances that she was denied. She wants to spread hope and positivity, and values working on herself to do so. She has been an independent contractor for 4.5 years with various.....


Elizabeth Villa

Whittier, CA

Hello, my name is Elizabeth Villa! I am a former foster youth and a mom to a wonderful 6-year-old. I work as an organizing intern for the National Foster Youth Institute, a non-profit organization that empowers foster youth to advocate and meet with government officials to voice the needs of youth within the child welfare system. In addition, I am a chapter member of the California Youth Connection, a youth led organizing group that advocates for policy change amongst the California foster care system. Lastly, I am a youth ambassador for a policy project led by CSSP and funded by the Conrad Hilton Foundation. The project focuses on designing and implementing meaningful, anti-racist supports for transitioned-age youth.


As a young mother who raised herself and her son in a system with limited resources and who  struggled with many insecurities throughout life--my first-hand experiences have given me an inside view of what my community needs. My passion is in building a community that supports foster youth with equitable resources, community bonds, and a system of support that uplifts....

Elizabeth .JPG
bottom of page