Shalita O'Neale

SHALITA O'NEALE, 28 Founder and executive director, Maryland Foster Youth Resource Center | Bowie Shalita O'Neale was 2 years old when her mother was murdered. After living with her grandmother, her uncle took her away when she was 5, an uncle whom she said was physically and verbally abusive. It wasn't until she was 13 before O'Neale told someone what was happening. She later moved in with different foster families and then a group home in Woodlawn. After earning a degree in criminology at the University of Maryland, O'Neale wanted to become a forensic pathologist until she volunteered with a performing arts group that worked with foster children. "I realized where my passion was, and it was for these youth," said O'Neale. In 2008, O'Neale launched Baltimore-based nonprofit Maryland Foster Youth Resource Center. She works on securing grants for programs, such as Save Our Foster Youth, which helps those "aging out" of foster care pay rent and provides books and materials to help them enter college. "They need a voice," O'Neale said, "a place to go to talk to somebody and somebody to talk to them." O'Neale is never one to feel sorry for herself. "I'm happy. I'm at a good spot," she said. "I'm at a spot I never thought I'd be." JORDAN BARTEL, B
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