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Jo Gramling Lopez: Supporting Future Success

Spartanburg County GAL Program, South Carolina
Brittany, 18 years old

Jo LopezJo Lopez had worked as an attorney on Wall Street for 32 years when the World Trade Center was attacked in September 2001. After seeing the plane hit the first tower and watching both buildings collapse, Jo was compelled to refocus and pursue a different path in her life. Shortly after returning to her home state of South Carolina, Jo met a foster mother who said, “You would be really good at being a guardian ad litem volunteer.” Jo looked into her local program and was assigned her first case in 2006.

When Jo met Brittany, she was 15 years old and entering state custody for the third time. Her mother was in prison and her father was not able to provide a safe home for her. To Brittany, Jo was just another person asking a lot of questions, and Brittany was tired of talking to strangers who pretended to care. But she soon learned that Jo was different.

 Jo was there the most, compared to anyone.

BrittanyJo did not pressure Brittany to talk . . . and she kept coming back, sometimes three or four days in a week. As a teenager preparing to age out of the system, Brittany needed guidance and support to make a successful transition to independent living. Jo met with her teachers and guidance counselors, guided her in finding a job and talked her through all her life options: college, vocational training, law and graduate school. She praised Brittany’s talent as a singer, helping her to perform at public gatherings and encouraging her to pursue her dream of landing an audition for American Idol.

When Brittany encountered difficulties in her group home and ran away, Jo intervened and helped pave the way for her to return. When Jo heard how important it was for Brittany to visit her mother in prison, she stood up in court and successfully argued to have monthly transportation to the prison provided. And when Brittany said that she was going to drop out of school, Jo said, “No way.” Brittany listened. She remains in school and is on track to graduate on schedule.

I know that Brittany has a bright future, and she just needs some help to get there.

Deep down, Brittany knows this too. “Knowing Jo has completely changed my attitude about life,” she says. “Without her, I would be on a different path. She’s a motivator, and she’s motivated me to strive for what I want in life.”

 

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