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Fraternity Brings Energy to CASA Programs Across US

OD Phi Members
Left to right: OD Phi members Sean Moya, Sergio Najera, Ike Perez and Jeremiah Vasquez participate in an Adoption Day event.

The men of the Omega Delta Phi fraternity (OD Phi) like to challenge the traditional perception of fraternities. For these young people, public service is the top priority. “We provide a social outlet for our brothers, but community service comes first,” says Ivan Jaime, director of national programs for OD Phi and a 2005 alumnus of the University of Texas, Austin.

In August, OD Phi announced its selection of National CASA as its national philanthropic and service partner. With more than 45 undergraduate chapters in 13 states and alumni groups in 5 states—and more chapters coming online every year—the OD Phi network is well positioned to help local programs. The partnership is already taking root across the US. For instance, in Albuquerque, NM, the men of OD Phi at the University of New Mexico (UNM) are bringing their considerable energy, talent and intellect to their local CASA program.

Shortly after school started last fall, Juan Dorado, president of the OD Phi chapter at UNM, invited to campus Susan McDonald, director of Bernalillo County CASA. The CASA mission “caught fire with our chapter,” says Dorado. “We wanted to put our time and effort into this.”

OD Phi brothers came out in force to volunteer at a National Adoption Day event at Albuquerque’s Second Judicial Court in November. They delivered documents, popped popcorn and handed out balloons to many of the 69 children waiting for their adoptions to be finalized; one brother even donned a gingerbread man costume to entertain the children while they waited.

Dorado says he was overwhelmed by the sheer number of children and youth adopted into “forever families” that day. The brothers immediately started planning their next action: Cosas for Kids (cosa is Spanish for “things”), a competition among fraternities and sororities to collect hygiene items for children in care. They collected 600 items, which the CASA program distributed in Christmas stockings in December.

“These guys came on board ready to move,” says McDonald. “They want to participate in something that has meaning, and they’re totally focused on how to help.”

Jorge Garcia is national OD Phi president. “Many of our brothers are first-generation college students, and the vast majority of them are men of color,” says Garcia. “They come from every walk of life, and a number of them are no strangers to a rough childhood.”

Dorado and McDonald say that OD Phi and Bernalillo County CASA have clicked and that the partnership has immense potential. “These kids want to think big—that’s their mission,” says McDonald.

Dorado is already planning his future with the CASA program. “When I get a bit older and established, I want to be a CASA volunteer.” That depth of commitment bodes well for the future of the OD Phi-National CASA partnership. And it bodes well for the abused and neglected children for whom our volunteers provide a voice.

Results of the 2009 Connection Reader Survey

Thank you to nearly 600 readers of The Connection who took the time to complete last fall's online survey. You have helped us better understand how well our national magazine works for you and how we can continue to make it better. The results of this poll have been closely read by the National CASA Communications Department to guide our future direction. Survey highlights:

  • The majority of readers surveyed indicated that reading The Connection helps them to feel better informed about child welfare issues (average rating 3.83 out of 4) and more connected to a national cause (3.84 out of 4).
  • The only change readers asked for in significant numbers is even more factual content related to volunteer advocacy for foster youth.
  • Sections of the magazine that received the highest ratings were “Top Tips for Volunteers,” the in-depth cover stories on topics affecting foster youth and “Volunteer Voice.”
  • Other highly rated features include editorials from youth and from experts in child welfare.
  • The top four topics readers would most like to see covered more are youth aging out of foster care, family preservation/reunification, child resilience and mental health.
  • Among topics that have not yet been covered in depth in the magazine, adoption and domestic violence stood out.

Survey respondents were given the option of entering a drawing for a $50 gift certificate to ShopCASA. Winners were Kim Garner of Grapevine, TX, Wendy Lafrenz of Mason City, IA, and Kassandra Wheeler of Mt. Shasta, CA.

Our editorial staff thanks all readers who participated in the survey. You will see the results of your feedback in upcoming editions of the publication, starting with the feature article about adoption in this issue. Other topics to be covered in-depth in 2010 are domestic violence and the issues facing older youth in care. We always appreciate your comments. Please provide your thoughts on the publication by completing the survey on the Connection home page.

Complete Results of The Connection Reader Survey: 2009_Survey_Summary (PDF, 202KB)

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