Twenty-Twenty was a year of need. As many were forced into unemployment, lost their homes, struggled to find their next meal, or didn’t have the means or tools to attend school charities were strained to their limits.
Many people resolve to help but wonder what to do. Others think just one person, can’t make a difference. There is a 14-year-old in Madison proving that one person can make a big difference.
Maya Cruz is a Girl Scout who was working on her Silver Award when COVID-19 put her plans on hold. Still wanting to have a positive impact on her community, she talked to her mother, Wendy, and together they narrowed her focus and clarified her goals. Wendy explains, “I had crossed paths with Jacquelyn Hunt (Founder and CEO of FOSTER of Dane County), and I saw Jackie as this resilient, strong, beautiful, intelligent Black woman that was doing amazing things in the community. I wondered if Maya could partner with Miss Jackie and support what Jackie’s doing in the community.”
Partner they did. Before long, Maya was in regular contact with Hunt, talking about what was needed to address inequalities in the Black and Brown Communities. Maya really enjoyed the feeling of helping people and also the engagement with the longtime Madison resident.
Maya could not have chosen a more inspiring mentor. Hunt is a professional with over 18 years of experience in the Substance Abuse/Mental Health field. As a result of the day-to-day counseling services she provided, she began to notice that there were many gaps in her ability to provide resources and services in that role. This galvanized her to created FOSTER. Hunt took her program to the community where she began to provide services right there where those most impacted by racial disparities dwelled. The goals of FOSTER are spelled out on its website:
- To reduce out-of-home placement of Black children in the foster care system.
- Reduce the educational achievement and attainability gaps of African American children across Dane County Schools.
- Reduce the number of Black teens who are at risk of JRC placements in Dane County.
- To reduce the number of Black men and women with mental health needs who are under the supervision of local county and state correctional systems.
- Identify the educational needs of Black adults and provide the opportunities necessary to ensure that they are qualified and possess the skills that will enable them to compete successfully in today’s job market.
Those goals called to Maya and she went to work to make a contribution. In a recent Facebook post Hunt talked about the work Maya is doing. “I just want to tell you about this youngin’ right here, Maya Cruz! Since the pandemic she has been coordinating drives that raise money and needed essential items in support of FOSTER! Early pandemic she was collecting essentials! Back 2Skool Bash she collected school supplies and back packs! Thanksgiving she collected essentials and money! And now so far for Christmas she has collected enough to create 20 laundry kits and donated $245, which is enough for 10 gift cards! I so appreciate all her efforts.”
If you ever thought that one person can’t make a difference, Maya Cruz is proving you wrong. The power of one combines with others to become the power of many and many will change the world.
To donate to help Maya, Hunt and FOSTER of Dane County continue their vital efforts, Please visit www. https://fosterdanecounty.org/DONATE/. To Volunteer, visit www. https://fosterdanecounty.org/contact/.