Farewell Sonia

Jul 14 2016

Farewell Sonia

Today is happy-sad at CASA of Travis County as, after 10 years of dedicated service, we bid a fond farewell to Sonia Kotecha, our Director of Community and Strategic Initiatives. Sonia is moving to Washington D.C. for an exciting new opportunity, and while we celebrate her achievements here and the new work she'll be able to do in DC, we are also sad to see her go. "What I appreciate most about Sonia as a colleague," says Executive Director Laura Wolf, "is that she genuinely and consistently looks for and focuses on peoples' strengths and qualities. She assumes the best about people and their interests and motivations."

But Sonia doesn't just see the best in people, she sees a better world that is possible. From day one, she has had her eye out for how the system can improve and how CASA can continue to evolve in the way we serve children. She came to CASA after working with CPS in Washington D.C. and she brought with her a deep and complex understanding of the challenges inherent in the system. Day in and day out, Sonia has worked to help address many of these challenges. "She is incredibly selfless," exclaims Chief Program Officer Sarah Christofferson. "She works so hard but never draws attention to herself or her hard work. She just keeps going quietly, below the radar." In doing so, she challenges her colleagues to work harder, not because she tells us to, but because we are inspired by her example. "Sonia is indefatigable," says Laura Wolf. "She has persevered in all kinds of different roles through lots of challenges and never lets herself be defeated by those challenges."

Community involvement and education has always been at the forefront of Sonia's work. "My motivation in coming to CASA was always about community education. I was always about 'How do we change the system,'" she explain. "One way was, when it becomes personal to you, you're more likely to do something about it. I liked the CASA model because it allowed members of our community from different walks of life to move through the system through the eyes of our families." As a result, Sonia was tireless when it came to recruiting new volunteers, to finding and inspiring stakeholders and bringing CASA to communities we hadn't reached.

Sonia likes to say that she grew up at CASA and that may be true, but what is clear is that she has helped CASA to grow up as well. She has helped us to build systems and processes and to be more strategic and innovative in how we serve children and families.  A crowning achievement of this was her work in expanding our lens around diversity and inclusion, drawing our focus towards the disproportionate effect of our system on communities of color. The relationships she built in communities where we hadn't focused enough of our energy and the commitment to cultural competency that she inspired have made us a stronger agency, one that is more inclusive and effective in serving the community. "She really raised the bar for CASA," said Sarah Christofferson, "especially in terms of disproportionality, what our role was and in bringing that subject matter to the forefront." Her work and the programs she led helped us to win the National CASA Inclusion award in 2012.

We will miss Sonia's kind spirit, her work ethic and the way she always maintains character, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges. We will feel the loss of her thoughtful and critical approach, her willingness to always rise to the occasion and her surprising love of pop culture. But we will build on her efforts and continue to strive to be the best CASA program we can be. We know she'll be cheering us on, as we cheer her on!

Thank you, Sonia, for all you've done over the last ten years.