About UsCASA PartnersVolunteeringWays to GiveNews & Events

News and Information from the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association

Youth Essay

How a CASA Volunteer and the Jim Casey Initiative Helped Me Grow Up

Nadia Draper

I want to tell you about a special woman, Suzanne Kolesik. She has done so much for me, it is hard to find a place to start.

The first time I met Sue was at my foster family’s house. The reason I liked her was because she said: “I am here for the kids, and if that means I have to get someone upset, so be it.” I could tell that Sue actually cared about all the kids she volunteered for at the Sarpy County CASA program near Omaha.

As my 19th birthday drew near, we knew that I would age out of the system. Aging out would mean the loss of essential life services that had been place while I was in foster care. Our plan was to obtain student loans so I could go to college. The plan was halted by the discovery that I was not a naturalized citizen. Sue asked for and received help from my caseworker; my guardian ad litem attorney, who helps us with legal issues; a PALS (Preparation for Adult Living Services) representative; state and local CASA staff; Legal Aid and many others.

We finally learned that our problems could be solved if we had a naturalization certificate or a US passport. My adoptive parents, who had abused me, would not relinquish my passport. Knowing I would age out in a few weeks and that the process for obtaining a new passport could take a few months, we broadened our search for solutions to include more contacts with Health and Human Services, brainstorming about other options with CASA representatives and communicating with Nebraska’s elected political leaders. Finally, my adoptive mother turned over the passport. Sue and I finalized the requirements for me to begin the next stage of my life. With one day to spare, I was prepared to age out of the system.

Then I was in a relationship for over a year with a boy who ended up mistreating me. All of my friends gave up on helping me break up with him, but Sue never gave up on me. Sue kept calling me and worrying about me. I just kept ignoring her phone calls. She talked to my youth pastor and told him I wasn’t answering my phone and she was worried. My pastor came to my boyfriend’s house, saw how I looked and said he would either call the cops or I had to leave with him. I packed my things and left.

After this big change, things were tough for me. I had no home, friends or family or anything like that. But Sue was there for me. All I had to do is continue going to college and not go back to my ex. She helped me out with my homework until I got it, even if it was past midnight. She taught me how to organize my mail. With all her help, I slowly began to understand and do what grownups do. I wouldn’t have gotten this far without her.

Another group that was helpful as I established independence was the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. With my Opportunity Passport™, I have purchased a car and am saving to buy a house someday.

I continue doing things on my own, but I always have Sue’s help when I need it. I talk to her almost every day. She continues saying meaningful words to keep me looking forward to the better future she knows I will have. She keeps letting me know how important I am.

Sue is just a CASA, like anyone else who works with kids. She didn’t have to come visit me weekly, call me every day, do all the things she did—because it wasn’t her job. She did it out of the goodness of her heart. The world needs more people like Sue. She is a loving mother and wife. Along with taking care of her CASA kids, she takes care of her whole family too. She makes a difference in the world.

Nadia, 20, attends Metropolitan Community College full time and works part time at a daycare center. She is interested in a career where she can use her native language of Russian. She participates in the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative site Project Everlast Omaha sponsored by the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation. Nadia also benefits from the Opportunity Passport, the Initiative’s tool to help youth aging out of care build economic self-sufficiency.

No comments.

Redraw Image

Your comments will not be posted until they have been approved by the moderator.
The US Department of Justice has supported CASA advocacy since 1985 through its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
This Web site is funded in part through a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice. Neither the US Department of Justice nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, this Web site (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided).