By Nancy Woodland, Children and Youth Advisory Board member
Our Children and Youth Advisory Board lost one of our own on Wednesday Dec. 2nd. I am so saddened to share that Sophie Theriault died in a car accident leaving behind her parents and brother and throngs of friends and fellow advocates and activists who lived, worked and loved alongside Sophie.
The CYAB is an oversight and advisory board comprised of King County residents who provide guidance on Best Starts for Kids. Sophie’s leadership on the Young Leaders Committee influenced Best Starts for Kids in valuable ways, having been appointed in 2017 as one of our first youth members at the age of 16. Her resume, although still in high school, included a number of board positions, other government appointments and a clear commitment to ensuring youth voice was heard on our board. Because she was new to so many topics that would arise in her various meetings, she had a habit of taking notes of any words or acronyms she didn’t know to look up as soon as she was home.
Sophie was a full-time nanny, had worked part-time at WestSide Baby for a number of years, volunteered for numerous organizations focused on issues facing women, children and communities of color. She is described by many as wise beyond her years. She was also musically talented, quick to laugh and proud of her tattoos!
Sophie’s Time on the Children and Youth Advisory Board
Before and during her time on the CYAB, Sophie shared her time with a busy work schedule, accelerated school schedule and leadership roles that needed youth voice, eastside voice and the voice of a young person who understood adversity but also understood her privilege in the face of that adversity. She was on the path to graduate from UW in 2021 at the age of 21.
Sophie was outspoken and unafraid of sensitive topics. She showed grit, grace, courage and humility when she made mistakes and an unwavering commitment to do better. She helped us normalize conversations about racism, decentering whiteness and youth justice and, for some, this is a needed push. In a group full of accomplished folks dedicated to keeping equity at the center of all of our decisions, disruptions and discussions, Sophie held her own, tested herself unapologetically but with the earnestness that earned her the respect of others. Sophie leaves us with an empty space but also with a clear direction to do right by ALL of King County’s kids.
An Incredible Daughter, Young Woman, & Friend to Many
Sophie’s dad, Jason Theriault, shared some beautiful and powerful words with us. View his full tribute video here.
“No person in my life ever knew more about me than my daughter Sophie. She was the best part of me, the better version of me. As a young child, she was a blessing to be around. As she became an adult, she was well beyond her years. Her ability to have compassion and empathy for me can only be compared to the empathy and compassion she had for the rest of the world. Not just the people she knew, but everyone else too. I ask of all of you to be better people for Sophie.”
Jason tells us, “her time on this planet was only 20 years, but her impact will last way beyond that. Beyond my lifetime and beyond.” He says for us to keep an eye out for a new foundation that her family will establish “to continue the work she was trying to do for young people.”
This short, beautiful video of Sophie singing Rise Up by Andra Day shows the strength, love, and generosity that Sophie brought to this world. In his video message, Sophie’s father says, “smile today for Sophie.” We hope you smile and continue to do important work in Sophie’s honor.