NYFC Spirit Award

Jermaine and Antoinette 2

Meet the 2015 Spirit Award Recipient

Antoinette Kane, speaking at the Spirit Award 2015

Antoinette Kane is a 21 year-old Sociology major, who is beginning her senior year at Bard College. As a leader amongst her peers and within her community, Antoinette exemplifies the core values of the Spirit Award. She has achieved significant academic success and is committed to serving as a positive advocate for change.

When she was four years old, Antoinette witnessed the shooting of her mother. She heroically saved her mother’s life and identified the perpetrator. Giving her mother time to heal, Antoinette moved in with her grandfather and did not return to her mother’s care until she was nine. At the age of 14, Antoinette was placed in foster care and subsequently became responsible for her life decisions and survival. At 18, Antoinette decided to sign herself out of foster care. Determined to achieve success, Antoinette focused on her studies and realized education was the way to overcome the obstacles in her life.

After arriving at Bard College, Antoinette worked to establish herself as a student leader and social activist. She has led protests and campaigns to highlight the severity and prevalence of social issues such as systemic racism and gender inequality. Antoinette also helped launch Bard College’s first-ever peer mentor program, dedicated to helping teens in foster care, both socially and academically.

This educational scholarship will help pay for Antoinette’s academic expenses as she finishes her bachelor’s degree. Antoinette’s ultimate goal is to develop her own nonprofit organization dedicated to education, prison, and foster care reform.

Meet the 2014 Spirit Award Recipient

The 2014 Fall Gala marked the 11th anniversary of the NYFC Spirit Award, a $10,000 scholarship awarded annually to a young person in foster care who has demonstrated outstanding leadership skills, a commitment to community, and the determination and ability to overcome the barriers to academic success. Northwell Health sponsored the Spirit Award.


Jermaine Christian

Jermaine Christian is a 22 year-old student at New York University. He is in his junior year with a major in Leadership and Management Studies with a concentration in International Business. Jermaine’s academic talent and his ability to overcome life’s challenges make him an excellent recipient of this year’s Spirit Award.

When he was 14 and just starting high school, Jermaine entered foster care. Being in foster care never allowed Jermaine to feel completely settled, as he was always facing unexpected changes. Although he graduated from high school on time, he soon found he was unprepared to deal with the challenges of college, and was forced to withdraw.

While this was a hard lesson for Jermaine to learn, he says “sometimes you have to go through rough times to prepare for greatness.” Soon after Jermaine joined the Year Up program, where he was introduced to Nicholas Scoppetta and Susan Magazine, and learned about New Yorkers For Children. While attending New Yorkers For Children’s Network to Success event, he realized the importance of a college degree in order to secure a better future.

Jermaine was accepted into New York University where he received a 3.9 GPA during his first semester. He joined NYU’s Gentleman of Quality Club, a civic-minded brotherhood that promotes leadership, scholarship and service. he also joined the New Yorkers For Children’s Youth Advisory Board, where he currently serves as Treasurer.

This scholarship will help Jermaine pay for his educational expenses as he continues to pursue his goals and earn his Bachelor’s degree. He says “I still have much to learn, but I’m dedicated to turning a big vision into a brilliant future.”

Meet Our 2013 Spirit Award Recipients

The 2013 Fall Gala marked the 10th anniversary of the NYFC Spirit Award, a $10,000 scholarship awarded annually to a young person in foster care who has demonstrated outstanding leadership skills, a commitment to community, and the determination and ability to overcome the barriers to academic success. Northwell Health sponsored two Spirit Awards in honor of the 10th Anniversary.

Crystal Cameron

Crystal Cameron is a 23 year-old student at Hunter College. She will be starting this year with advanced standing in the R.N. Pathway program at the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing. Crystal’s ability to overcome life’s challenges and her unwavering commitment to a career in nursing make her an excellent candidate for this year’s Spirit Award.

When she was 16, Crystal entered foster care after receiving the life changing call that her father had been killed. At age 17, she gave birth to her daughter, who provided her with the motivation to focus on her education. Crystal graduated high school and started college at LaGuardia Community College, where she was recognized as an honors student and was on the Dean’s List for three semesters.

At the same time that she was entering the nursing program at LaGuardia, Crystal was transitioning out of foster care without a permanent home to live. She found herself struggling in the challenging nursing program amidst instability in her personal life. Despite all that she was facing outside of school, Crystal persevered through the program and completed her requirements.

This past June, Crystal graduated from LaGuardia with an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science. She was chosen as the pinning ceremony leader for her nursing program, planning the prestigious ceremony and speaking in front of her classmates and professors. In August she passed her National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses.

This scholarship will help Crystal pay for her educational expenses as she continues to pursue her goals and earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Crystal’s dream is to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) and a motivational speaker for young girls in foster care. Crystal feels proud to share her story and feels that “if you just have one person who believes in you, it can make all the difference.”

Zinyusile Brian Khumbula

Zinyusile Brian Khumbula is a 20 year-old sophomore at Pace University studying Public Accounting. His drive for academic success, along with his desire to serve his community, makes him a deserving candidate for this year’s Spirit Award.

Brian was born in Zimbabwe and raised in both Zimbabwe and South Africa. He moved to the United States in September of 2009 and has been in foster care since he was 17.

Brian has taken an active role in improving foster care for other young people. He is a member of his agency’s Youth Council, which meets with the agency President to talk about issues youth in care are facing and generates solutions to support these young people. Brian is described as a “positive force” in these meetings for his insightful comments, words of wisdom, and willingness to provide support to his peers. He believes that being a leader is not about showing power, but about “working together and helping each other for a greater cause.”

Brian works full time at Fishs Eddy and recently began working for his agency part time in the Bridges to Health program. He is also a youth advisor for Minds On Fire, an organization dedicated to helping young people enter adulthood with confidence, curiosity and compassion.

The Spirit Award scholarship funds will help Brian remain at Pace University and afford the expenses of a private college. Brian’s goal is to become a social entrepreneur and open daycare facilities that would allow low income families to receive quality care for their children. He wants to use his story and the opportunity presented by the Spirit Award to help others.

Meet Our 2012 Spirit Award Recipient

Brian is a 21-year-old sophomore majoring in Criminal Justice and minoring in Social Work at SUNY – Genessee Community College in upstate New York. Brian’s academic talent, unwavering commitment to community service, and determination to succeed, despite facing significant obstacles, make him an outstanding and deserving recipient for this year’s Spirit Award.

After the death of his mother, Brian entered foster care at the age of nine with one sister and two brothers. Brian has been able to persevere through life’s most difficult challenges. During his senior year of high school, Brian moved to four different foster. With his grades suffering and becoming increasingly more frustrated, he thought his only option was to drop out of high school and look for a job. Brian’s life and aspirations changed after his foster care agency sponsored a trip to a local college. Realizing he wanted to go to college, Brian enrolled in an alternative high school program where he could work during the day and attend classes in the evening. He graduated from the program with perfect attendance, a Regents diploma, and a citizenship award.

As captain of his middle school soccer, baseball and basketball teams, Brian learned how to be a leader from an early age. As a teenager, he served as the Chairman of his foster care agency’s Youth Advisory Board, a committee that provides peer-to-peer mentoring for other youth in foster care. In this role he co-chaired a college trip to Washington DC for 25 youth and has mentored and tutored many boys in his foster care agency. He is currently organizing a support group for children in foster care who have lost their mothers. Brian’s compassion and empathy in his work with these young men are evident to all who work with him.

The Spirit Award scholarship will assist Brian to pay for his college expenses as he transfers to a four-year college. Brian’s ultimate goal is to graduate from college and one day be married and raise a family. He also hopes to return to his foster care agency to work with youth in foster care.

Meet Our 2010 Spirit Award Recipient

Kadidjia, a 20 year old college student who is in her second year at Borough of Manhattan Community College, is the recipient of the 2010 New Yorkers For Children Spirit Award.  She is currently pursuing her Liberal Arts degree and intends to switch to a four-year college to study Biology.  Her dream is to attend medical school and become a gynecologist.

Kadidjia entered care at the age of 12 after her father forced her to leave home.  She lived in a series of foster homes, attending different schools with every move.  Eventually, she was returned to her birth family.  Lacking a stable home life and support system, Kadidjia ran away and found herself homeless at 13 years old.   She soon came to believe that the only way for her to better her life was through an education, at which point she signed herself back into care and re-enrolled in high school.  As a result of her academic achievement and determination to attend college, she graduated from high school one semester early.

In college, Kadidjia’s academic and extracurricular activities exemplify her tremendous desire to succeed despite her tumultuous childhood.   She served as President of the Scholarship Club and was a member of the Academic Senate.  She is currently a Student Ambassador, a peer mentor, a volunteer at the Women’s Health Center at Metropolitan Hospital and a member of the NYFC Youth Advisory Board.  She is also participating in the Cornell Pathway to Success Program, a program for motivated and intellectually curious community college students, who are interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Cornell.

Kadidjia’s strength has allowed her to set and achieve her own goals and to assist others to reach their own.  Focusing her efforts on disadvantaged youth, Kadijia shares her experiences in hopes of inspiring youth in care who are in need of guidance.  She plans to use the Spirit Award to prepare for the MCAT and assist her with medical school tuition.

Meet Our 2011 Spirit Award Recipient

Christina is a 20-year-old junior studying Nursing at Stony Brook University. She is the recipient of the 2011 New Yorkers For Children Spirit Award. Christina’s academic achievement, commitment to community service, and her motivation to succeed in school despite significant obstacles make her an outstanding and deserving recipient for this year’s Spirit Award.

Christina never envisioned herself going to college. At a young age, she and her siblings were placed in foster care and moved from home to home. She was later taken in by a caring foster family and it was then she felt cared for and supported for the very first time. When Christina was placed in foster care, she was determined to assist other youth in foster care who face similar struggles. She hopes to be a role model and inspiration to abused and neglected youth, and instill the message that they can achieve anything with perseverance and hard work.

Christina’s interest in community service began with her involvement as the President of the Ushers Ministry at the St. Albans Baptist Church. In this role, she developed leadership skills by guiding and managing her fellow ushers through their weekly tasks at the church. Christine’s sense of service is evident with her active involvement with campus activities. She is the Vice President of her school’s Alternative Spring Break Program, whose mission this year was to help restore the Florida Gulf Coast after the devastating effects of the oil spill. She is also the Community Service Chair for Habitat for Humanity and is part of the Pre-Nursing Society. In addition, she has written several articles for Represent Magazine, a magazine written for youth in foster in care by youth in foster care.

The Spirit Award scholarship will assist Christina to pay for her college expenses and to fund a future opportunity to study abroad. She aspires to become a registered pediatric nurse and to travel the world offering free medical care to those in need.

NYFC Spirit Award


2015 Spirit Award Recipient, Antoinette Kane


The NYFC Spirit Award is a $10,000 scholarship awarded each year to a young person in foster care who is succeeding in college. The recipient is a young person who has demonstrated outstanding leadership skills, a commitment to community, and the determination and ability to overcome the barriers to academic success. The NYFC Spirit Award is presented at the Annual Fall Gala and the recipient becomes a youth liaison to NYFC.