Alumnus named a top Boston innovator

Northeastern alumnus Marquis Cabrera deferred enrollment at an Ivy League graduate school after graduating in 2011 with a degree in criminal justice. Instead, he chose to continue developing Foster Skills, a Boston-based nonprofit he started as an undergraduate that supports the city’s foster children.

It’s a personal cause for Cabrera, who grew up in foster care before being adopted as a teen. Now, his hard work and dedication have earned him the recognition of being named one of the region’s top innovators by The Boston Globe.

“The deck is stacked against children in foster care,” the Globe wrote in a profile of Cabrera that ran in the newspaper’s special Globe 100 issue last month. “No one knows that better than Marquis Cabrera, a former foster kid who beat the odds to graduate college. Now he’s trying to help other foster children achieve life success through his nonprofit social enterprise, Foster Skills.”

After growing up in New York City’s foster care system, Cabrera wanted to create an organization that could support children like him and lobby for systemic changes. With those goals in mind, he created Foster Skills, where he served as CEO until January. Cabrera stepped down, he said, to allow enough time for the organization to transition to new leadership as he continued his education.

Foster Skills has worked with some 450 local youth and organized more than 80 workshops focused on teaching life skills. The organization has also established partnerships with like-minded organizations; lobbied for new legislation advocating for education and judicial stability; developed MyHome, a web portal of resources for foster children; and launched the Foster Youth In Action Initiative to share stories of successful foster youth.

At an event at the Massachusetts State House in April, Cabrera and several current Northeastern students lobbied legislators and rallied members of the public to support legislation that would improve the lives of foster children in Massachusetts who age out of the system.

Now a member of the nonprofit organization’s board of directors, Cabrera is navigating a web of opportunity, including graduate school. Cabrera credits his experiential-learning opportunities at the White House, City Year, and the startup Wayfair “for developing the skills and connections to build Foster Skills.”

At 24, Cabrera is the youngest of this year’s crop of 12 leading innovators, who include inventors, CEOs, researchers, and other local luminaries.

“Marquis is truly a superhero for his work in building and supporting families, and inspiring other young people to be change-makers as well,” Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson told the Globe.