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Alumnus named a top Boston innovator

North eastern alumnus Mar quis Cabrera deferred enroll ment at an Ivy League grad uate school after grad u ating in 2011 with a degree in crim inal jus tice. Instead, he chose to con tinue devel oping Foster Skills, a Boston-​​based non profit he started as an under grad uate that sup ports the city’s foster children.

It’s a per sonal cause for Cabrera, who grew up in foster care before being adopted as a teen. Now, his hard work and ded i ca tion have earned him the recog ni tion of being named one of the region’s top inno va tors by The Boston Globe.

“The deck is stacked against chil dren in foster care,” the Globe wrote in a pro file of Cabrera that ran in the newspaper’s spe cial Globe 100 issue last month. “No one knows that better than Mar quis Cabrera, a former foster kid who beat the odds to grad uate col lege. Now he’s trying to help other foster chil dren achieve life suc cess through his non profit social enter prise, Foster Skills.”

After growing up in New York City’s foster care system, Cabrera wanted to create an orga ni za tion that could sup port chil dren like him and lobby for sys temic changes. With those goals in mind, he cre ated Foster Skills, where he served as CEO until Jan uary. Cabrera stepped down, he said, to allow enough time for the orga ni za tion to tran si tion to new lead er ship as he con tinued his education.

Foster Skills has worked with some 450 local youth and orga nized more than 80 work shops focused on teaching life skills. The orga ni za tion has also estab lished part ner ships with like-​​minded orga ni za tions; lob bied for new leg is la tion advo cating for edu ca tion and judi cial sta bility; devel oped MyHome, a web portal of resources for foster chil dren; and launched the Foster Youth In Action Ini tia tive to share sto ries of suc cessful foster youth.

At an event at the Mass a chu setts State House in April, Cabrera and sev eral cur rent North eastern stu dents lob bied leg is la tors and ral lied mem bers of the public to sup port leg is la tion that would improve the lives of foster chil dren in Mass a chu setts who age out of the system.

Now a member of the non profit organization’s board of direc tors, Cabrera is nav i gating a web of oppor tu nity, including grad uate school. Cabrera credits his experiential-​​learning oppor tu ni ties at the White House, City Year, and the startup Way fair “for devel oping the skills and con nec tions to build Foster Skills.”

At 24, Cabrera is the youngest of this year’s crop of 12 leading inno va tors, who include inven tors, CEOs, researchers, and other local luminaries.

“Mar quis is truly a super hero for his work in building and sup porting fam i lies, and inspiring other young people to be change-​​makers as well,” Boston City Coun cilor Tito Jackson told the Globe.

– by Matt Collette

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