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Former Foster Youth Sophia Booker Presents at a National Social Work Conference

Sophia Booker is a former foster youth. As a teenager, she was encouraged to attend UMFS’ Project LIFE, a program for foster youth which prepares them for life as an adult and helps them form positive, stable connections with caring adults in their life.

Project LIFE had a big impact on Sophia. “When I started as a participant, Project LIFE gave me the tools I needed to help me build my own support network.” As Sophia grew up, she went from being a participant in Project LIFE, to a volunteer, to a part-time staff member. She currently serves as the Youth Network Coordinator.

Her work with Project LIFE helped inspire Sophia to work towards a career as a social worker. A senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, Sophia will graduate in May 2018 with her Bachelor of Social Work.

Sophia has really enjoyed her time at VCU, and all of the opportunities it has presented. Last spring, Professor & Associate Dean for Research Dr. Betsy Farmer approached Sophia with a really big opportunity. Dr. Farmer offered Sophia a research assistantship. “I had never really considered something like this,” Sophia remembered, “but it opened my eyes to new things and broadened my horizons. It’s also helped me in the classroom. I’ve been applying everything that I’ve learned.”

Sophia worked with PhD candidate Rachel Rosenburg on her dissertation research. Rachel’s research is focused on youth perspectives about foster care, which is a topic that Sophia knows well. Sophia gave input into the questionnaire Rachel developed, and helped Rachel recruit foster youth in Project LIFE to take the survey.

Rachel and Sophia were asked to represent VCU and present the research at the Council on Social Work Education’s national conference in Dallas. Sophia was excited about the opportunity, but also nervous. “I share my story a lot, but this was new – presenting in a research capacity. It’s more of a challenge.” Sophia was also nervous because she had never flown on a plane before. “Flying is a weird feeling,” Sophia reflected after she landed safely in Dallas. “Planes are a lot smaller inside than they depict on TV. It was a little scary, but I thought the experience was pretty cool.”

Sophia and Rachel’s presentation was well received at the conference. Sophia is happy she had the opportunity. “Being open to opportunities like this gives me options,” said Sophia. “I love to try new things, and this will help me as I prepare for my social work career. I want to be able to give back and help other youth in foster care find their voice.”

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