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Panel 3: Employment & Education

Michael Pergamit, PhD
Michael Pergamit

Michael is a Senior Fellow in the Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population at the Urban Institute. He is a labor economist whose research focuses on vulnerable youth, particularly in the transition to adulthood. He was the project director for the Chafee evaluation and currently conducts evaluations of other programs designed to help vulnerable youth gain education and enter and succeed in the labor market. Past research has included projects exploring the relationship between growing up in a vulnerable family and moving into education and the labor market as a young adult. 

Saroya Friedman-Gonzalez, MPA, MSW
Saroya Friedman-Gonzalez, MPA, MSW

In March 2016, Saroya Friedman-Gonzalez joined New Yorkers For Children (NYFC) to serve as the Executive Director. New Yorkers For Children is a public/private partnership with New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) with the goal of improving the lives of children in foster care by engaging New Yorkers in that effort. NYFC is best known for its Guardian Scholars and Back to School scholarship programs, although it operates several small-scale pilot educational and vocational programs. Prior to joining NYFC, Friedman-Gonzalez served as the Managing Vice President for the National Urban League’s (NUL) Workforce Development Division.

Howard Knoll, MSW
Howard Knoll, MSW

Howard is the Senior Director for Casey Family Programs, a national operating foundation addressing the needs of vulnerable children, teens and families in the nation’s foster care system. Mr. Knoll works with New York’s State Office of Children and Family Services and upstate counties in improving outcomes for youth in care and the communities they reside in. Prior to Casey Family Programs, Mr. Knoll served as Senior Director for ARBOR E&T, a national workforce development organization. Mr. Knoll developed and managed youth and adult workforce development programs within community-based, One-Stop and Job Corps settings.

Shavonn Wheeler
Shavonn Wheeler

Following her first semester at Kingsborough Community College, Shavonn Wheeler applied for the New Yorkers For Children (NYFC) Guardian Scholars program. Shavonn’s acceptance into NYFC’s Guardian Scholars Program was a major turning point in her life. Her involvement with NYFC helped her become the impassioned young leader and advocate she is today. As Shavonn approached her 21st birthday she realized she would soon age out of foster care. However, she knew she would not face this daunting reality alone. Rather, she relied on her family at NYFC to provide her the emotional, academic and financial support she needed. NYFC connected Shavonn with a leadership program offering her the opportunity to grow and become an empowered young adult. When Shavonn struggled academically, NYFC connected her with a tutoring program to help her excel in the classroom. As 2014 began so did an exciting new chapter in Shavonn’s life. She moved into her first apartment and was accepted to John Jay College as a transfer student.