May 24 2012
By Sonia Kotecha
“Step up, look past yourself, get involved with CASA. It will be the most rewarding thing you do in life. I’m a testament to that.” These were the inspiring words of former foster youth Chadwick Sapenter on Tuesday evening at the Lift Your Voice volunteer recruitment event. Chadwick speaks from his personal experience on being a young African American male lost in an overburdened child welfare system. He tells the story of meeting a number of caring professionals throughout his time in care, but it was his CASA volunteer who was the first to tell him that he was not defined by his situation. Those powerful words gave Chadwick, who lives in Austin, the motivation and encouragement to be the successful entrepreneur and outstanding community leader that he is today.
It encourages me to know that Larry Comer, one of our own CASA volunteers and another speaker at the event, volunteered because he wanted to relay that exact message to other youth in foster care that Chadwick received many, many years ago - they do not have to accept the ‘at-risk’ label society puts on them.
Texas CASA spearheaded the Lift Your Voice event in an effort to encourage CASA programs throughout the state to develop partnerships with African American communities to recruit more CASA volunteers and to advocate for better outcomes among African American children in foster care. An ethnically diverse audience gathered in the student union of Huston-Tillotson University to hear powerful testimonies and calls to action from civic and faith leaders, former foster youth like Chadwick and CASA volunteers like Larry from Austin and the surrounding areas.
Many attendees who were already considering volunteering or were hearing about CASA for the first time were eager to sign up and learn more! I was approached by a young couple with two small children who felt empowered upon hearing Larry say that he knows volunteers who have school-aged children and still have time to advocate for a child. They were ready to learn more about what it would take for them to become CASA volunteers.
CASA volunteers make a significant difference in the life of a child in foster care and we need more caring adults to make the commitment! I know that the audience left feeling inspired and the follow-up from attendees is still coming in from the event including invitations to present at local churches. If you have an organization or group that would like to hear more about CASA, let us know.
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