Understanding community with CASA

It’s hard to truly understand the struggles that children go through. The issues that burden kids now are vastly different and hard to relate to compared to youth growing up 10 or 15 years ago. There are some caught in a constant battle with the judicial system from judges who hardly know them or parents arguing what is best for the child. Both my mother’s jobs involve working with children and I hadn’t fully understood the kid’s struggles until I volunteered with CASA.

During my Junior year at University Preparatory High School my civics teacher Mr. Arturo Figueroa assigned us a project to discover how we could help the community. The project was meant to be a small exercise in becoming adults and in showing we could affect the community, encouraging us to take action rather than waiting for someone else to do it for us. Talking, emailing, and interacting as and with adults.

My partner Isabella Moss and I had decided we wanted to create a donation drive for older kids that were part of CASA. During a school event, my partner and I organized a booth where students and parents could donate. With help from school officials, we were able to send out emails leading up to the event encouraging others to donate items targeted toward older youth. Our goal was to raise $250 in goods or approximately 10 good-quality backpacks. That goal was well surpassed and we obtained approximately $400 in donations. It was all thanks to the guidance and support of CASA.

The Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children or CASA is an organization that pairs children with volunteers who can advocate for them in court. According to CASA’s Tulare County and Pikes Peak Region websites the founder, former Superior Court Judge David Soukup, would constantly stress over doubts about whether the decisions he made in juvenile court were indeed the best for the children. In 1976 he had an idea to give each child a trained volunteer to speak on their behalf, ensuring they got the most appropriate ruling in court. After one year of being enacted in Seattle, the program had 110 trained volunteers assisting 498 children. Seven years later Tulare County was graced with its own CASA department.

The donation drive really stressed the importance of goods for older children. Most donations to charities involving kids normally target the younger pre-teen group rather than the older youth. The teens were not receiving essential items such as larger clothes or toiletries because a majority of the donated goods were better suited for the younger demographic. It felt empowering to know that we could help out the local community. Seeing the physical impact of donations or money pilling up in boxes knowing they’re going to those in need motivated me and gave me that sense of community. No longer a foreign word that only meant a local collection of people, community now means an assemblage of individuals that have a common goal of insuring each other’s happiness; and you can help out the community as well.

The Spring Traditional and Spring Accelerated training sessions are starting soon. Starting April 17th you can participate in the traditional training that is covered in 11 2-hour sessions or the new accelerated training covering the training in 4 5-hour sessions. For more information regarding the training click the link here – and find your new meaning of community.

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  1. Benicio – This is a thoughtful and informative opinion piece! I appreciate all the information about CASA and its history. Marilyn Barr, who use to be the person in charge of CASA in Visalia was my neighbor for many years. You are right, CASA is an important organization for children in our community. I was honored to work with you last year on this project. Please keep writing pieces for the Valley Voice!

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