During the Walden Social Change Networking event on July 21, I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Ebony Cray, a Walden student in the MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. During our online chat, I learned that Ebony is an active volunteer in her community. She is on the Board of Directors for OMEP-USA, an “organization dedicated to advocating for children’s rights and high-quality education for children.” She also started World Advocates for Children and Families, LLC, (WAFCAF), where she offers free resources and guidance for families in need, and she has been a Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) volunteer for three years. Her volunteer work is in addition to her full-time position as a teacher and program coordinator for a child development center. Our conversation focused on her work with CASA.
As a CASA volunteer, Ebony’s role is to guide, support, and advocate for abused and neglected children who are involved in the court system. To become a CASA volunteer, Ebony submitted an application and went through an interview process. Once accepted, she received extensive training on how to navigate the court system, collaborate with attorneys and social service agencies, and most important ― “advocate for children’s best interests.”
After completing the CASA training, Ebony was assigned to a case involving two young brothers. She has been with their case for three years. She meets with the brothers monthly, attends court hearings, communicates with the children’s attorney, writes reports, and advocates for the brothers before the judge. As their advocate, Ebony has built a bond of trust with the brothers. She described her relationship as one that will “tug at your heart strings.” In 2015, Ebony was awarded a CASA scholarship to attend the National CASA conference where she connected with other CASA volunteers and learned more about family law and advocacy. She also attended her state’s annual CASA Day at the Capitol event to learn more about current and proposed legislation that affects children in foster care and CASA programs.
Ebony is a CASA volunteer because she both believes in positive social change and she wants to take an active role in making change happen. Through volunteering, she is strengthening her professional skills, learning about the “plight of others” in her community, making connections, and becoming an adept and persuasive leader for families.
The Career Services Center thanks Ebony for sharing her story, and we wish her continued success in her academic program and career!
To explore the positive impact volunteering can have on your career, view the Career Services Center archived webinar: Maximizing Career Success Through Strategic Volunteering
Written by Denise Pranke, Senior Career Services Advisor