Wilmary Rodriguez Checo

5 years in Foster Care

25 years old


Wilmary Rodriguez Checo is working to complete a Master of Social Work degree, with a concentration in Public Policy. She immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 2011 in order to pursue her higher education, and hopes to use insights she gains from school, work, and her personal experiences to help improve the child welfare system worldwide. As a Watson fellow during her senior year at Bard College, Wilmary had the opportunity to conduct hands-on research while working for child welfare organizations in India, Uganda, Costa Rica, Perú, and the Philippines. She wants to work with policymakers around the world to define and share best practices for child welfare and foster care.

After completing her work with the Watson Fellowship, Wilmary took a position as a home finder with Cayuga Centers, where she recruited, trained, and certified families to foster children. She currently works as a socio-therapist with the Children’s Aid Society. Wilmary is a member of the Fair Futures Advisory Board, one of the leading organizations working in New York City to improve and transform the city’s foster care system. In this role she helped to successfully advocate to quadruple the budget for a crucial mentorship program for New York City foster youth. In her spare time, Wilmary also volunteers with Graham Windham in the Bronx, the same foster care agency that she was a part of during her youth.

Wilmary spent about five years in foster care. She was placed not long after arriving from the Dominican Republic. Wilmary felt that, as a foster youth, society had already decided who she was: unwanted, criminal, uninterested in education, and damaged by a broken family. She became determined to defy the stereotypes and avoid slipping through the cracks by devoting herself to her education. She is passionate about using the things she has learned and experienced to transform the conversations and stigmas that affect the lives of marginalized youth.

Team(s) or Cohort(s)
2022 Outstanding Young Leaders