Casa Valentina was established in 2006 by a group of concerned women who wanted to find a way to address the immense challenges faced by young women who were “at-risk” or “age out” of foster care at 18 years old without being adopted or reunited with their families.
Lacking the life experience, financial stability and support they need to survive on their own, these youth face high risks of violence, prostitution, substance abuse, incarceration, pregnancy, domestic violence and homelessness.
Our five Founding Board members conducted numerous fund- and awareness-raising events to shine a light on these young women’s stories. The capstone was a November 2005 performance of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, which raised the seed money necessary to start our innovative and unique program.
Founding Board Members
After identifying the challenges faced by at-risk youth and former foster youth as a key issue facing our Miami community, our founding board members worked tirelessly to establish a program to help these vulnerable young people. Established advocates for women, they came together through a shared commitment to changing the future for transitioning youth. Throughout 2005 and 2006, these extraordinary women led a grassroots awareness- and fund-raising effort that introduced thousands of people to the crisis facing young women exiting foster care or considered at-risk. We welcomed our first residents in October 2006. Our Founding Board Members have remained the driving force behind Casa Valentina’s success. From mulching the backyard, to providing governance, to baking cookies for events, these women make Casa Valentina successful day after day.
A graduate of University of Miami, she has worked as an attorney since 1979. For the last 25 years, Sharon has served as the Executive Director of Miami-Dade Legal Aid Society. Sharon is a leading advocate for improving the status of women and girls in our community. She enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren.
Lisa Schejola Akin
A dedicated volunteer and supporter of women’s issues. Her work at Casa Valentina came through involvement with Eve Ensler’s V-Day movement. Lisa is a graduate of Georgetown University and Thunderbird, the American Graduate School of International Management. A native of Italy, she enjoys living on Miami Beach with her husband and two children.
Embarking on a new career as a Mediator after an eight-year tenure at Miami-Dade Legal Aid Society. Marcia has also been a high school teacher, a Commercial Real Estate Broker, businesswoman and past-President of the Alper Jewish Community Center. Marcia enjoys her three adult children and seven grandchildren.
“While my name is Sharon I am now known as Sheshee by my four grandchildren. A Hoosier by birth I have lived in Miami for over 40 years. Two of my contributions to my community are Casa Valentina and a photography and writing program that I developed for Foster Care Youth called ‘Picturing Ourselves.'”
Susan became involved with Casa Valentina at the same time as her own daughters were transitioning into adulthood. She could not imagine the difficulties faced by at-risk youth and youth exiting the foster care system and wanted to help develop supportive programming and housing alternatives for them. Additionally, she has spent the last 30 years as a counselor.