By Shannon Contreras
“I knew I wanted to make a difference, one kid at a time.”
Marycarmen Ramirez always felt a calling to help others, and that’s evident in every aspect of her life. She spends her days working as a Victim Services Specialist for a local police department, and when she’s not at work, she’s in grad school studying toward a master's degree in Public Administration. Somehow, Marycarmen finds a way to juggle all of this while serving as a CASA volunteer.
Her dream is to one day have a career that enables her to work toward policy change in smaller communities, creating programs for those who are underrepresented, especially minorities.
Born and raised in Nacogdoches, Texas, Marycarmen moved to the Austin area four years ago, and when she’s not working, studying, or volunteering, she loves true crime documentaries and podcasts, as well as hiking. Her dream is to one day have a career that enables her to work toward policy change in smaller communities, creating programs for those who are underrepresented, especially minorities.
“I've always felt a calling to help others, whether it was in my personal or professional life,” she tells us. “A few years ago, I was working for the state in a great job, but I really didn’t have a passion for the work I was doing. Around that time, I saw that a local police department had an opening for my current job, and I really felt that I needed to step up and help others in that kind of role. At the same time, I also applied to be a CASA volunteer.”
"I wanted to be a voice for children who couldn’t speak up for themselves. I knew I wanted to make a difference, one kid at a time."
It was the Netflix documentary, The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez, that gave Marycarmen the motivation she needed to finally apply to be a CASA volunteer, even though she had thought about it for a long time. “Back in 2019, when I watched that documentary, it was so upsetting, but gave me an extra push to finally fill out the application to become a volunteer. I knew I wanted to make a difference, one kid at a time.”
When Marycarmen started volunteer training, she was impressed with how thorough and informative CASA's training was. “Volunteer training was amazing, there was so much education and the hours went by so fast. I learned a lot that I’ve been able to keep in mind for my own case, and the expectations were so clear. It is a lot of work, but it is also so rewarding – you can really make a difference.”
"The most important thing for me when advocating is being a support system for the kids, being empathetic, and making sure they know they’re not alone."
Marycarmen is currently on her first CASA case and says that even though the pandemic has brought a lot of challenges, she’s still been able to make great connections with the children she serves. “The most important thing for me when advocating is being a support system for the kids, being empathetic, and making sure they know they’re not alone. I want them to know that there is someone out there who cares about them and their well-being.” Since visits have been virtual during the pandemic, she says it’s important to stay organized, while being flexible and empathetic. “I always just keep in mind that things won’t go according to your plans and you have to be flexible.”
"YOU can truly make a difference."
Marycarmen is passionate about the work CASA does and hopes that more people in the community start volunteering. “Being that extra set of eyes in the case makes such a difference. We get to know all the parties and YOU can truly make a difference, you become part of their lives. Maybe it won’t always seem like it, but looking back, you’ll see the impact you made. I am juggling grad school, work, and CASA, and I wouldn’t change it for anything – it’s so worth it!”
Could CASA be your passion? The children we serve are waiting for dedicated and caring community members just like you. Learn more on our Volunteer page or RSVP for an upcoming Volunteer Info Session over Zoom. If you're ready to begin your volunteer journey, apply today!
2021 Featured Volunteer Story Volunteer Profiles January