Valencia Whitehead was born in Columbia, South Carolina and raised in various places, including Texas, Georgia, Germany and Alaska. She later moved to the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area where she worked in the Human Services field for agencies such as Baltimore City Department of Social Services, Baltimore Urban League, and Baltimore City Department of Housing & Community Development. After relocating to South Carolina, she served as a Service Coordinator for Managed Treatment Services, and Continuum of Care for Emotionally Disturbed Children. Her passion for working with troubled youth, and addressing issues specific to this population, led her to help fund and initiate Youth Voices of Lower Richland—a teen pregnancy prevention program that furthered efforts to reduce teen pregnancies, and STDs/HIV AID in the rural area of Hopkins, South Carolina, just outside of Columbia.
In her successive phases of employment, she worked as a Program Manager for the Building Healthy Communities program with Providence Hospital, and prior to beginning work in the legal field, she served as a nonprofit consultant for federal agencies, private organizations, and community/faith-based entities, where she wrote funding proposals and traveled to Washington, D.C. and Chicago to review grant applications for various solicitations. Valencia has also enjoyed her role as an interviewer for the University of South Carolina’s Institute for Families in Society, where she conducted qualitative research for its Division of Medicaid Policy Research (MPR). She then used these skills in her post as a Field Interviewer for Research Triangle Institute, where she administered surveys for the National Survey on Drug Use & Health (NSDUH). Valencia received her Master’s Degree in Criminology with a specialization in Juvenile Delinquency Counseling from the University of Maryland, College Park’s Institute of Criminal Justice. This path soon led her to seek work as a Mitigation Specialist with the Charleston County Public Defender’s Office, where she was able to achieve her goal of helping to address social injustice and other issues for juvenile offenders, serving life without parole sentences.