Welcome back to our salute to some of Arizona’s black leaders who are creating positive change in the state and beyond. If you missed it, check out our last post about Arizona Representative Reginald Bolding.
For this post, we’ll focus on Naketa Ross, a woman who turned a tragic childhood into a triumphant adulthood. Naketa runs Resilient Me, Inc., a nonprofit that helps young people in the foster system adjust to adulthood. See how Naketa took her turbulent past and turned it into power.
Naketa Ross is a perfect example of someone taking difficult circumstances and turning them into opportunity. Naketa grew up in Chicago with a drug-addicted mother, who was murdered in the street when Naketa was still a child, resulting in her placement in the foster system. Naketa says that in one home, she and her sister were forced to sleep out on the porch with the dogs.
Naketa later became pregnant and suffered a period of homelessness, which turned out to be a turning point in her life. She began speaking about her experiences while setting goals for herself in order to better her life. She ended up putting herself through school at Southern Illinois University, where she received funding to study the concept of resiliency, a subject she knew well from her own experiences.
Her studies led Naketa to Arizona, where she worked as a case manager for youth in the foster care system. Through the experience, Naketa realized that there was a gap in services for foster care youth ages 15 through 21. She felt that they were inadequately set up to enter the adult world once they exited foster care—so she decided to take action.
With help from Social Ventures Partners Arizona, a group that connects philanthropists with nonprofits, Naketa started Resilient Me, Inc., a nonprofit that educates and empowers youth to successfully transition into adulthood. Naketa now helps marginalized youth get on their feet and thrive, just like she did.
Naketa’s story shows us how we can use adversity to encourage us to do great things. By refusing to let her circumstances control her, Naketa was able to rise above challenges and be a positive role model for the young people of Arizona and around the country.