Everyday Sunshine courtesy of Tomika

Welcome to our first post highlighting the everyday heroes of CASA!  Today’s story was originally posted over on Examiner.com by :

Former foster child receives award for working with today’s neglected kids

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) of Prince George’s County is one of 15 local CASA programs throughout the state of Maryland working to ensure every victim of child abuse and neglect the right to grow up in safe and permanent homes. And now it’s time to pay tribute and honor a former foster child and current CASA volunteer. After being a foster child herself, and having a CASA volunteer assigned to her case, Tomika Holmes was selected to receive an inaugural “Forty UNDER 40” award for her efforts as a CASA/Prince George’s County volunteer, paying it forward to the organization that helped her find a safe home when she was a child.

CASA Volunteer Tomika Holmes

“I send a heartfelt thank-you to the voting committee for my selection of such an honored award, and I thank my CASA supervisor, Gabrielle Smith, and the whole CASA/Prince George’s County family for my nomination,” Holmes said. “I truly do not feel worthy of such an award, but I am thankful nonetheless.”

Presented by the Prince George’s County Social Innovation Fund, in partnership with the Community Foundation for Prince George’s County, Envision Prince George’s and the Human Services Coalition of Prince George’s County, this new award recognizes Prince George’s County residents under the age of 40 who have made exceptional contributions in their professional and community endeavors.

“Tomika has become a model CASA volunteer, working with a teenage girl who will age out of foster care to independence when she turns 21,” saidAnn Marie Foley Binsner, executive director of CASA/Prince George’s County, who nominated her for the award. “Tomika talks with the girl every day and has been there for every significant milestone.”

“Despite going significantly above and beyond her required service, Tomika constantly questions what else she could do to help this young lady prepare to step out on her own,” Binsner added. “

We are constantly wondering how to duplicate her because we need more volunteers just like her.”

Holmes joined CASA in 2008, to fulfill a desire to help children in need – and to satisfy an obligation she felt to compensate CASA for its role in helping her find a family.

“My motivation to become a CASA volunteer was based, in great part, by my faint, but powerful memories of sitting in a court building hallway and having a CASA worker sitting beside me, holding my hand, and (sharing) a warm smile of comfort and assurance,” Holmes said.

“I promised myself that one day, when the opportunity and time presented itself, I would seek to be that comforting smile of assurance for a child in need of a CASA.”

Her work with CASA has been rewarding, she says, because of the lifelong impact it has had, both on her and the young girl she is serving.

“What has been the most rewarding for me has been hearing my youth restate to me, months later something we’ve discussed,” Holmes said. “It proves that, she truly is listening and something I said, some guidance I have given has impacted her life in some form or fashion for the better.”

“I believe the bond that has been developed will last throughout her life and, when she reaches 21 years of age, our relationship will continue to flourish and she will become an extended part of my family.”

Former Special Assistant to the Chief of Police for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Tomika is currently a senior at George Washington University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.  An active committee participant with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, she also mentors young adults in her church community.

Congratulations to Tomika Holmes for a well deserved “Forty UNDER 40” Award!

For More about CASA of Prince George’s County – See their website for additional information.

Thursday Sunshine courtesy of Trenton

Today snow flurries have been spotted in the DMV so a little sunshine is much-needed :)

*Hat tip to one of my favorite blogs, BlackandMarried with Kids for sharing this story of Trenton Gilstrap, a high school senior, who gives back by helping other young people cope with their own disabilities.

From the Huffington Post:

Though epilepsy and Asperger’s syndrome sometimes get in the way when Trenton Gilstrap socializes with his high school friends, his conditions haven’t interfered with his educational dreams, CNN reports.

Trenton hopes to become a biomedical engineer and was recently accepted  — on a full scholarship –  to the University of Pittsburgh.

“It makes me feel like all that work, all that struggling, all that crying at home alone finally equals success,” Trenton told the news outlet.

While Trenton is satisfied with his accomplishments, he wants to make sure that other young people, suffering with similar disabilities, have the same opportunities.

So, Trenton and his mom, Tatia, launched the Hidden Inspirations Project, a nonprofit that offers scholarships to kids living with a range of disabilities.

“The more we’ve found out how different he is, the more we’ve been able to bridge the gap in people’s lives — especially mine,” Tatia told CNN.

Watch the CNN video here.

What I love most about this story is Trenton’s very mature understanding of his peers’ struggles and his desire to lend a helping hand. The irony? This from a young man who supposedly lacks empathy, hmmmm…..

How awesome is Trenton? Who knows more about autism and related disorders: you, me or the professionals? Do you know how to embed non-YouTube videos? Leave your sunshine below.

Everyday Sunshine courtesy of Everyday Heroes

casa

Most who know me IRL know that I am extremely passionate about children, family and youth. When is the last time that you stood up for a child? Our daily news is often littered with offense after offense committed against children. Thank goodness for the many organizations and people who are willing to speak up for society’s most vulnerable citizens.  One such organization has my eternal support:

The National CASA Association is a network of close to 1,000 programs that are recruiting, training and supporting volunteers to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courtroom and other settings to ensure they are placed in safe, loving and permanent homes as quickly as possible. A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer is appointed by a judge to provide an informative report and recommendations that will assist the judge in making important decisions in a child’s life.

Each year more than 700,000 children experience foster care. CASA volunteers are often the consistent adult presence involved in a child’s case.  Our country’s overburdened child welfare system, although well-intentioned, is often ill-equipped to effectively focus on the individual needs of each of these children. CASA bridges this gap through the committed involvement of volunteers from the community who advocate for the child’s best interest.

Locally, CASA, Prince George’s County  and CASA for Children of DC  are near and dear to my heart. Behind these two organizations are hundreds of everyday heroes, people like you and me, that are making a noticeable difference for children and youth in foster care. A former employee and lifetime volunteer, I have personally witnessed the positive impact that these Everyday Heroes have on the children, family, system and community.

Want to know more? Don’t fret, Everyday Sunshine will be a new series in which I will highlight some of the amazing work being done by CASA volunteers, the resilience of children and youth in foster care and the hard work of the staff that makes it happen.

In the meantime, be sure to visit CASA, Prince George’s County to find out more about how you can make a difference in the life of a child in Prince George’s County, Maryland.  CASA, Prince George’s County  will be holding an information session for those who want to learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer on Thursday, January 5, 2012 from 6-7:30pm at the Hyattsville Municipal Building.  For more info please visit them on the web at www.pgcasa.org .

For those of  you in DC, checkout CASA for Children of DC, who in addition to traditional CASA volunteers, also recruits and trains volunteers to serve as mentors for youth in foster care.  The Building Up Dynamic and Determined Youth (B.U.D.D.Y. Initiative) serves children in the DC foster care system by providing positive adult mentors, without interaction with their Family Court case. CASA for Children of DC ‘s next volunteer training begins on Tuesday, January 24th. Classes will take place each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. through February 9th. Training is held at the DC Superior Court. For more info please visit them on the web at www.casadc.org .

Not in the DMV?  Visit www.casaforchildren.org to find the CASA program in your area. Not sure you’re able to volunteer? All three non-profit organizations are always in need of donations as well.

What better way to start the new year than by standing up for a child!

Have you ever heard of CASA? Do you volunteer in your community? Leave your sunshine below.

Friday Sunshine

Happy Veteran’s Day!  Thank you to all of the men (including my dad, RIP) and women of the armed forces for their service to our country and the world!

Just dropping by to share some sunshine……

The People’s District is a website that shares the diverse stories of DC residents through simple yet insightful interviews.  This week’s profiles are on Dionte and Lorenzo, two young participants of City Blossoms, a non-profit committed to kid-driven, community engaging creative green spaces. Reading these posts brought such joy to me that I just had to share:

Dionte on Construction, but with Plants

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

When I grow up, I want to be a construction worker, but if that doesn’t work out, I will be a professional football player.

“I live on Girard St. and used to look out onto the garden, before it was a garden, from my window. This place used to be a dump and full of sand. The playground was all run down, and most of us weren’t allowed to play out here. Then one day, I saw the construction come, and they built a new play area for us kids. Now, we be out here playing football, riding our bikes, using the swings, and gardening. It’s nice to have a place where kids can come out and play instead of just staying all up in the house.”

To hear more from Dionte, please visit The People’s District here: http://peoplesdistrict.com/dionte-on-construction-but-with-plants

Lorenzo on His Award-Winning Watering

Friday, November 11th, 2011

“Hi, my name is Lorenzo and I live on Girard St. in North America. I am five-years-old, and I loooove gardening. I like to plant plants so that other people can have plants. Did you know that plants need water? It’s true, they get real thirsty just like people.”

For the rest of Lorenzo’s thoughts, please visit The People’s District here: http://peoplesdistrict.com/lorenzo-on-his-award-winning-watering

Be sure to continue to check back regularly with The People’s District for more DC sunshine and please be sure to support City Blossoms.

Did this bring you as much joy as it did me? Do you want to play on the playground with Dionte and Lorenzo too? Are there similar programs in your area bringing green spaces to the inner city?  Leave your sunshine below.