“I was extremely nervous, but also extremely excited,” shared Sophia. Sophia Booker was one of three youth moderators at the Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Forum. The September 8th event was sponsored by Voices for Virginia’s Children to enable Virginians to hear the candidates’ positions on key children’s issues.
Sophia brought a unique perspective to the forum. As the Youth Network Coordinator for Project LIFE at UMFS, she works with teens in foster care to empower them to successfully transition into adulthood. She works at UMFS part time while pursuing her degree in social work at Virginia Commonwealth University.
A former foster care child, Sophia understands the challenges that children in foster care face each day. One of her questions to the two candidates focused on this issue. “The Commonwealth of Virginia has the highest percentage of youth aging out of the foster care system without permanent family connections. If elected, how will you support youth aging out of foster care?” Both candidates agreed this is a critical issue that needs attention. Other topics covered included the need to close the achievement gap for lower income students and students of color, the health needs of lower income children, the effects of substance abuse on children, and improving mental health care for children.
Sophia was happy to have a lot of friendly faces in the audience including fellow VCU students and co-workers from UMFS including President & CEO Greg Peters. “It was great to have others supporting me in the crowd. It made me feel less nervous,” said Sophia.
Sophia enjoyed hearing the perspectives of Democratic candidate Ralph Northam and Republican candidate Ed Gillespie. “Ralph was very passionate about what he said and Ed did a good job as well with the plan he shared.” She really enjoyed her role in the forum. “I felt honored to be one of the moderators. It was a great opportunity to meet both of the candidates. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.”
When asked who she will vote for in November, Sophia said she is still deciding as she continues to learn more about the candidates. She encourages other young people to join her and get involved. “Youth should get involved with the policies that affect us. If we know what’s going on, we can better advocate for ourselves.”
To learn more about Sophia, click here.
To learn more about the forum and the candidate’s responses, click here.