Patrick, a dedicated CASA volunteer for the past eight years, had his CASA experience take an unexpected turn when he was asked to advocate for a 17-year-old, justice-involved youth in 2022.
When Patrick first learned that he would be matched with a young man, K*, on probation, he couldn't help but feel a mixture of hesitation and fear. Like many volunteers, Patrick had concerns and some unanswered questions about working with a youth involved in the justice system.
However, to his surprise, K turned out to be a polite and respectful teenager, far from the "scary" image that initially crossed Patrick's mind. As they spent more time together, Patrick began to understand the extent of the trauma that K had experienced, which had deeply affected K and led to his involvement in the system.
They started communicating through text messages, which gradually evolved into meeting up for coffee every other week. With the right in place, Patrick saw the positive changes within K and witnessed his determination firsthand. Remarkably, K successfully completed all the terms of his probation within the year that Patrick served as his advocate.
Of course, as in any advocacy situation there were challenges, and frustrations, communication being the biggest. At first, K, being a typical teenage boy, was guarded and suspicious of authority. Fortunately, working with the CASA team, they were able to find solutions to obstacles. With time and patience Patrick & K were able to build enough trust in their relationship that real communication started to happen.
Today, K is attending Cabrillo College, a testament to his resilience and unwavering commitment to rebuilding his life. Patrick couldn't be prouder of K's accomplishments.
Patrick's experience with K demonstrates the transformative power of compassionate mentorship and advocacy. It serves as a reminder that stereotypes and preconceived notions often cloud our judgment. By giving a chance to those who have been justice-involved, we offer them an opportunity to rebuild their lives and thrive in the community.
At CASA of Santa Cruz County, we believe in the potential of every young person, regardless of their past. We understand that fear and hesitation may arise, but as Patrick discovered, watching a young man heal and grow far outweighed any initial concerns. Working with justice-involved youth requires empathy, understanding, and an unwavering belief in their bright futures.
We encourage you to take a leap of faith, just like Patrick did, and join us in making a difference in the lives of these resilient young individuals.