Two Remarkable Women
Areli: recently aged out of foster care, single mother of three young children, attending college
Stephanie: new CASA volunteer advocate, successful careers in acting, politics and brand communications
When these two met last year in June, both had doubts about the situation. Areli was worried that Stephanie would be “hard to deal with, bossy” and for Stephanie, this first case seemed daunting. They quickly learned to trust each other and built a relationship.
Areli is an amazingly determined young woman who appears to have defied all of the odds. She had been in foster care for seven years and moved through four foster homes before she was finally placed with a foster mother who she was able to build a strong relationship with, who she says “taught her how to be a mom.” Unfortunately, this foster mom passed away. Areli and her children were then moved into a group home for young mothers which did not work out. Eventually Areli was about to move out of the group home and into an apartment of her own with her children. When Areli was close to aging out of foster care, her judge assigned CASA to help her get services for her son with special needs. With CASA’s help, her son was placed in a preschool program with the therapies he needed. Meanwhile, Areli was working, studying for her GED and caring for her three children. When Stephanie was assigned as her new CASA advocate, Areli was 20 and going to age out of foster care in less than a year
Stephanie had heard about CASA many years ago, but was immersed in her career(s). Her history is fascinating and includes touring as an actor for many years and then working in the White House during the Clinton administration. She returned to New York City, worked in brand communications consulting and remembered CASA, which would now fit into her life. After she completed her training to be an advocate, Areli was Stephanie’s first assignment, and she approached it with zeal. After meeting Areli and learning about her goal to become a registered nurse, Stephanie began researching grants for higher education and found one that seemed perfect. The only issue was that she had to be enrolled in postsecondary education before the age of 21. Areli was nine months away and had not yet passed her GED. Undaunted, Stephanie encouraged Areli (“she was on my back, she kept telling me that I was going to pass, she said just do it”) and Areli passed. Stephanie then set about finding a college program and financial aid for Areli.
Although other programs have better nursing programs, Areli chose Medgar Evers Community College since it was close to her home. “I had to do what was right for everyone, not just me.” Areli began attending in January, just before her 21st birthday in March. When asked about how all of this was accomplished in such a short time, Areli simply said, “it was because of Stephanie that I got into college…she was all over everybody…she was on top of it.” Stephanie continues to assist Areli with issues that arise with financial aid, public assistance and Medicaid. She applied for and received a grant to buy Areli a computer for her courses. Stephanie continues to spend as much time as necessary to make sure that Areli has the opportunity to succeed.
When asked to describe their successful partnership they spoke about each other.
Areli: “She cares, it’s not like she’s trying to impress someone, she cares.”
Stephanie: “This is going to sound lofty, but Areli is grace.”