Community//

Felicia Wilson of ‘What About Us’: “Know your niche and why you’re starting a cause”

The first thing I wish I was told before starting was that partnerships are key to building longevity in the nonprofit sector. Second, building strategic relations is key to organizations knowing who you are and what you do in your industry. Third, know your niche and why you’re starting a cause. Fourth, make sure you […]

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The first thing I wish I was told before starting was that partnerships are key to building longevity in the nonprofit sector. Second, building strategic relations is key to organizations knowing who you are and what you do in your industry. Third, know your niche and why you’re starting a cause. Fourth, make sure you can show people why you need their support in helping you fund programs. Last, know and understand the grant writing process and how funding works.


As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewingFelicia Wilson.

Felicia R. Wilson is the CEO and Founder of What About Us Inc. She is a former foster youth of the New York City foster care system. She is also the CEO and Founder of Fear Everything and Rise, LLC. Felicia works primarily with foster care youth ages 16+: those who need to prepare to age out, those that have aged out, and those that have found themselves in the criminal justice system. She attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan New York where she studied Criminal Justice and specialized in Government. She finished her undergraduate studies at the University of Phoenix where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice Administration. She then furthered her education at Walden University where she studied Human and Social Services and graduated with her Master of Science Degree in 2018.

Felicia spent 8 ½ years working for the New York City Department of Juvenile Justice and the New York City Administration for Children Services, where she served under the New York City Division of Youth and Family Justice. She also worked as a Congregate Care Specialist working in a residential setting with at risk youth that were awaiting sentencing for crimes such as rape, robbery, arson and violation of probation.

Felicia remains dedicated to nurturing young people and helping them find their purpose in the world. She empowers them to be world leaders by implementing social change starting with themselves. She teaches the importance of community engagement, especially dealing with matters very close to them. When faced with challenges she is willing to challenge herself and learn from them. Felicia chose to use her circumstances as a weapon against perceptions and fears to rise as the woman that she deserves to be and the mother she yearned for in her youth. If she can do it, so can any other foster youth.

Currently, Felicia is working on her Doctorate of Human Services degree with Capella University. She is a proud Bronx native with a husband and two energetic children. Felicia hopes to change the perspectives and paths of foster youth in New York City so that they can be the artisans of their own stories.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

I grew up in foster care in New York City. I entered foster care at the age of 4 and transitioned out at 21.

You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

I am trying to change the outcomes for foster youth in and from foster care. I’m doing it by modeling exactly what they are capable of achieving. I am showing them that they can beat the odds and overcome the stigmas by graduating from college, creating their own business and becoming world leaders that rock by being an agent of social change.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

What made me feel passionately about this cause stemmed from me being labeled as a hard to place teenager. Teenagers are often neglected and treated as throw away kids that nobody wants to care for. They are looked down on by society because of their circumstances growing up as an orphaned child.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

Yes, there was an Ah Ha moment. The final trigger was when I was in my Master’s program and youth were reaching out to me for support and resources. In that moment, I realized that I once felt the same way they did and needed to do something to guide them in and on their journey. That’s when I created What About Us Inc.

Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

First I became incorporated in New York State. Then, I did an interest meeting to scout board members that were alumni of foster care. I wanted to create an organization by alumni for foster youth.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Yes, in 2020, I was one of the organizers for the first ever black foster youth march in New York City.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I made was reaching out to organizations and individuals that didn’t know about foster care in NYC.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

Yes, I had mentors that pushed me to step out and be different. They encouraged me to create the change needed to inspire those living in my community and borough. There were times I called my mentor and would cry because I was frustrated and felt stuck. They would reassure me by telling me I am right along in the process of where I belong and to keep pushing forward.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Yes, one young lady that marched with us shared with me that she has been in the dark for years hiding. Scared to tell what she encountered in foster care has caused her to hide her pain and bury her trauma. Once she heard me share my story she hugged me and promised to fight through her embarrassments so that someone else can find strength like she did to share her journey.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Yes, become aware of policies that are in place to help youth secure housing and push agencies to follow them. No child should leave foster care and their only option is homelessness. Second, increase foster parent training hours and resources for ongoing parent development. Third, train case managers to do their jobs effectively so that they can offer both youth and foster parents the proper support and resources for them to transition youth into adulthood successfully.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

The first thing I wish I was told before starting was that partnerships are key to building longevity in the nonprofit sector. Second, building strategic relations is key to organizations knowing who you are and what you do in your industry. Third, know your niche and why you’re starting a cause. Fourth, make sure you can show people why you need their support in helping you fund programs. Last, know and understand the grant writing process and how funding works.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I would tell them to look within their communities and identify three problems. See who’s addressing those issues and if they’re not being addressed then create a program or cause that will tackle and get down to the bottom of the issue. I would tell them to do what’s not already being done. Create IMPACT!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Yes, Alexander Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and Colin Kaepernick.

How can our readers follow you online? They can go to www.wauinc.org, facebook

@WhatAboutUsIncNYC

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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