A fierce advocate for youth at-risk and former foster care youth.

A Chicago native, born to a Haitian immigrant family, Vanessa Joseph moved to Miami at age two and has lived here ever since. Joseph has a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master’s degree in public administration and a law degree, all from the University of Miami.

She has dedicated her career to advocating for immigrant and disadvantaged communities in North Miami and throughout the county. Apart from her work as the Elected City Clerk for the City of North Miami and practicing law, Joseph also volunteers for various local nonprofits and serves on the board of Casa Valentina.

How did you discover Casa Valentina?
I first heard about Casa Valentina a couple of years ago through a friend and former board member, Dr. Cassandra Arnold. She introduced me to the organization, told me about its mission, and invited me to serve on the board. When I heard about the great work Casa Valentina does when it comes to providing at-risk youth and young adults who have aged out of the foster care system with safe housing, it piqued my interest immediately.

What about the nonprofit resonated with you as you considered becoming a volunteer?
I believe that people deserve the dignity of safe, affordable housing and the ability to be self-sufficient. I care deeply about people who are the most neglected and most vulnerable among us. Casa Valentina was aligned with my personal values and goals. I was looking into becoming a foster mom and had recently become a Guardian Ad Litem as a step towards doing so.

Why did you decide to join the Casa Valentina board?

I joined because I wanted to be able to contribute to an organization that is helping at-risk youth or former foster care youth with the care and the support that they need to reach their full potential. What we do is provide young adults not only with housing but also with different life skills that they can use to reach their full potential. The board is filled with inspiring people who have achieved so much individually and personally, and it’s really inspiring to see them bring their individual success to create a significant collective impact. Casa Valentina has also done a good job of recruiting board members who are reflective of the community it serves and is committed and passionate about the work because the residents’ stories resonate with theirs.

You are actively involved in the community. Tell us about the other causes and organizations you have been involved in.

I have always been an active member of my community and had worked with at-risk adolescents in different capacities in the past. I was a teaching intern at Breakthrough Miami, a nonprofit that uses a student-teaching-students model to ensure that motivated, under-resourced 5th–12th-grade students have access to excellent high-school opportunities, graduate from high school on time, and attend college. While I attended law school at the University of Miami, I had an opportunity to once again work with Breakthrough Miami, going into schools and teaching children about the law. As the daughter of a Haitian immigrant family, I now also focus my community service efforts around providing resources to Haitian American organizations like Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center and the Haitian American Professionals Coalition. I currently also serve as the Elected City Clerk for the City of North Miami, advocating for immigrant and disadvantaged communities in North Miami and throughout the county.

What keeps you engaged with Casa Valentina and its mission?

What keeps me engaged is the impact that we’re having on the residents’ lives. As a board member, I’ve seen firsthand how the program is changing lives. In listening to their stories what strikes me most is the picture they paint of where they could have been if not for Casa Valentina. Hearing directly from the young adults leads me to really believe deeply in our work because you realize that if not for this organization there would be a high likelihood that this person you’re listening to would not be here thriving in the way they are today. It’s important to engage ourselves as much as possible, whenever possible to improve our residents’ lives. Through our advocacy and different initiatives we take on, we’re able to do that – and that’s what keeps me coming back.