Ericka on Her CASA Advocate, Susan

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I am 20 years old, and have been in foster care since I was removed from my mother in 2008 when I was 11 due to physical abuse from her.  I know I am more fortunate than many kids in foster care because my grandmother was able to take me in.  She loves me unconditionally and always took good care of me, and I lived with her until recently.

I also feel very lucky that when I was a senior in high school, my Judge assigned CASA to help me with the process of getting into college and with getting my birth certificate and social security card. These were things that   my grandmother was not able to help me with, and my caseworkers tried, but I had so many of them and they were so busy that they weren’t able to really help.  Before I was assigned to CASA, I panicked a lot about getting all of those things done, about being successful, being a good student and overall accomplishing great things. I didn’t believe in myself and I didn’t have anyone in my life who could help me navigate the world of work, college and career plans.  Then I met Susan, my CASA volunteer.  She helped me with much more than just college applications.

Susan possesses many heart-warming and lively qualities which made it easy for us to connect. She really took the time to get to know me, she paid attention to every detail and she was very  consistent. We visited a number of college campuses together, and she helped me with applications, financial aid, and scholarships. We would grab lunch when we had an open spot in our often busy schedules. Susan introduced me to many different things once she got to know about me. I would receive emails from her every week, consisting of all sorts of things that correlated to my academic and social life, as well as my passions. They ranged from college scholarships to apply for, videos of rising poets speaking their voice, or even writing workshops.

The summer after my senior year, Susan told me about an internship at Youth Communications. Because of my chance to intern at Youth Communication, my life changed enormously. Now I am a published writer.  I was invited to speak on a discussion panel at Philanthropy New York to voice my story and concerns about being a foster care youth, to read one of my published stories at a conference and to speak for an audience of funders at a Youth Communication event. Susan helped me get another internship with the Redlich Horwitz Foundation. These experiences helped me break barriers that I never thought I would for myself, connecting more with other teens and great people, learning not to be afraid of the uncertainty of the future, and better yet creating – not finding – who I am.  I know that without Susan, I would have done Summer Youth Employment instead of Youth Communications and I wouldn’t be where I am, or who I am today.  I am forever grateful and appreciative to have met someone like her.  If the majority of CASA volunteers are like this woman that I was fortunate enough to have, then everyone in foster care deserves a CASA volunteer.

I am currently a sophomore at LaGuardia Community College, finishing my Associates Degree in Liberal Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, with a concentration in Journalism.  I plan to receive my Bachelor’s degree in Journalism/ Media Studies at Queens College, where I’ll be transferring after I finish my Associate's Degree.  I am a participant in the Dorm Project at Queens College, which allows youth in NYC foster care to live in the dorms free of charge. I am a passionate advocate & writer.  I have used my writing to connect with my peers, and to advocate for positive change for youth in foster care.  I am now a young adult who has grown immensely over the years. I have gained confidence and become more outgoing since having Susan in my life.  I will always remember Susan for the faith she had in me before I had it in myself.