Each year, Equal Voice News features “America’s Next Leaders”, a series that profiles the recipients of the Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty Leadership Award. The award honors young people who, in the spirit of Sargent Shriver, have demonstrated a deep commitment to social justice and have transformed that commitment into effective action across an array of issues.The Marguerite Casey Foundation supports and promotes America’s Next Leaders in order to recognize their resolve and courage and to help them build a network that will foster their individual and collective work moving forward.
Equal Voice News is an online newspaper published by the Marguerite Casey Foundation that covers the intersection of policy and poverty, with a focus on the lives of families living at that intersection.
The Chicago Equal Voice Network, which includes Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, nominated Kaleyah Wesley for the award. Here is a summary of her community contributions:
Kaleyah’s family became homeless in 2012. Around the same time, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless was developing its education committee, a group of parents, students and teachers fighting for the rights of homeless students in schools.
Kaleyah began attending these meetings with her mother and soon became one of the most active committee members.
Besides learning how to advocate for herself and her family to improve their situation, Kaleyah visited Springfield several times to lobby for an Illinois budget that she and other social justice advocates say would address family concerns.
She shared her personal story with legislators to encourage them to find support for homeless students and families. She also has testified before the Chicago Board of Education and was featured in a Chicago Sun-Times column about the needs of homeless students in Chicago Public Schools.
She is a member of the coalition-run Speakers’ Bureau and regularly goes back to the shelter where she once stayed, talking to women and children about their educational rights.