Former foster youth named White House ‘Champion of Change’

Sokhom Mao, a data specialist at the California Social Work Education Center, hosted by UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare, has been named a White House Champion of Change, a program that recognizes Americans doing “extraordinary things to make a difference” in their communities. Mao will travel to Washington to be honored on Tuesday, May 19. The event begins at 9 a.m. Eastern time and will be livestreamed.


Sokhom Mao

Mao is one of 12 former foster youths across the nation to be honored on May 19 as part of National Foster Care Month. The event will showcase the stories and work of these leaders for their courage, resilience and contributions as well as for their commitment to furthering their educations.

Mao was born to refugees who fled Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime. When he was 9, his mother died and he and his five brothers and sisters were placed in California’s foster care system. Eventually, he landed at the Bay Area Youth Centers’ Real Alternatives for Adolescents, where he was given the support he needed to prepare for college.

He went on to attend San Francisco State University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and was named an ambassador for the Guardian Scholars Program, created to help foster youth navigate higher education.

In addition to being a data specialist on the research and evaluation team for the California Social Work Education Center, Mao also is a juvenile justice commissioner for Alameda County and a police board commissioner for the city of Oakland.

Mao says he is inspired by former foster youth, like himself, who have been through tough challenges. “Seeing an improved system that accommodates their needs is a crucial part of my motivation and drive,” he says.

Read more about Sokhom Mao on the California Social Work Education Center’s website.