Can you really help make a difference in a child’s life in only a few hours per week? After four weeks of visits to the library, hiking and eating cheeseburgers together, I know now you can make a difference in two lives. Just the big smile on my CASA minor’s face when we meet together after school, instead of the wary, nervous, “where are you taking me today?” made the answer clear. The hours spent with this child are as rewarding, stimulating and as fun for me as they are for this child. After teaching middle school for 12 years and retiring three years ago, I found my life quite satisfying. I create my own hours, with plenty of time to ski, kayak, bike and garden. Mostly, my parents’ own transitional time in their ripe old ages of 92 and 84 and commuting to their home 200 miles away pretty much filled my calendar. And while my parents are very appreciative, I can find no “teachable moments” — no giggles and, sadly, not much enthusiasm for their future. I had a friend doing CASA work in Carson Valley and she was experiencing all the giggles, sharing of hopes and gladly giving up her exercise and recreational time to be with her CASA child. So I took the CASA training in October 2012 and have been building a relationship and helping make a difference in someone’s life ever since. Not that the time is without its challenges, but challenge is a good thing! Three years into retirement I was feeling a bit selfish, in that with the exception of helping my parents and being supportive of my own grown children and significant other, my time was pretty much my own.
The other night, Stephen Colbert interviewed former President Clinton and asked him why he wants to work so hard helping others. Former President Clinton responded “to be selfless is to be selfish.” Don’t we need the world to be a better place, so that we can all live better lives? Some of the situations that young children need to deal with today are beyond belief. Think homeless or moving every two or three months; hungry; socially and academically lagging behind their peers; yet they’re expected to enter their classrooms every day and be successful. Homework help is not always welcome and aggressive behaviors don’t magically disappear, but consistency and positive reinforcement will go a long way to enhance the outcome of a child’s life … and all of our lives.
The South Lake Tahoe CASA office will beginning its Spring CASA training on May 2. To sign up for the training or to receive more information about becoming a CASA, call Amanda or Alexis at: 530-573-3072 or visit: www.casaeldorado.org.
— BJ Sourikoff is a new CASA who participated in the fall 2012 CASA training.