by Sara Blake
Brendan Goodrich knew that his grandmother was a CASA volunteer, but it wasn’t until he volunteered with CASA himself that he truly understood the depth of her role in children’s lives. Brendan remembers attending her funeral as a child more than ten years ago. “People had sent in letters about how she’d been a great support to them,” says Brendan. “It was something I always had in the back of my mind, this cool thing my grandmother had done.”
Several interesting experiences have led Brendan to where he is today. At the age of 16, while working at 7-Eleven, he learned and developed a love for the Spanish language. Brendan has worked as a bus and truck driver, had a short stint as a grave digger, and is currently having fun as the secret shopper for a popular local chain (but it’s a secret!). Perhaps one of Brendan’s most fascinating abilities is his knowledge of the Mayan language, a skill that he learned when serving as a research assistant for conservation economists in a small village in the Yucatan.
After graduating from Cornell University with a psychology and Spanish degree, Brendan moved to Austin to study for his masters in Transportation Planning at UT. When a friend of Brendan’s shared his own experience as a CASA volunteer here in Austin, Brendan immediately recognized the organization that his grandmother had devoted herself to. In August 2017, Brendan decided it was time to follow in her footsteps.
According to Brendan, one of the most surprising dynamics in this role has been the intricate and, at times, confusing relationships between the parties involved in a case. “I was really surprised by the complex network of communications between everyone,” says Brendan. “It was very challenging to put myself in that network. What people were or weren’t talking about took some time to figure out. I’d say volunteers need to be ready to be jack of all trades. There were a lot of things I had no clue about, but it’s important to have an open mind, a willingness to learn and a readiness to empathize.”
“I’m here to help my family and teen understand what’s going on.”
Brendan feels that CASA “gives a genuine face” to the things that teens in foster care are dealing with. “You have all these things going on with court, and it’s very complicated for everyone,” says Brendan. “I’m here to help my family and teen understand what’s going on. If I don’t understand something I go back to the family or to other parties in the case. My teen teaches me things too; it’s a conversation. Making sure we all understand is important!”
Volunteer Profiles January 2018