Dog Mom, Future elementary School Teacher, and CASA of CGS Volunteer Advocate
What gives your life meaning? Some people spend their entire lives searching for a lifelong path, a higher purpose, or their own unique calling. For some, this is a constantly changing journey. For others still, these life goals and ultimate direction have been clear from as far back as they can remember. And for Angelica Rodriguez, she’s been manifesting her dream since she was just 11 years old.
An aspiring teacher, Angelica has had a passion for working with children since she was just a little girl. Even at such a young age, she always knew that she wanted to spend her life leaving positive impressions on children, advocating for them and setting them up for success in any way she could. It was this internal drive that motivated her over the years to volunteer in the community with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and what likewise inspired her to pursue a degree in Early Childhood Education. And now, she has harnessed that passion and devoted it to helping youth in foster care as a CASA of CGS volunteer.
“From the moment I met Angelica I knew she would be the perfect fit for CASA,” said Julia Shulzhenko, CASA of CGS Training and Outreach Coordinator. “Upon speaking with her, you can really feel her passion for helping children. She is extremely compassionate and hard working. And that can be seen throughout her advocacy journey with our program.”
Angelica joined our team just less than a year ago, inspired by her passion, educational background, and her mother, Wanda Otero, who has been a CASA of CGS volunteer since 2019. She had been craving an experience that would allow her to work with children in her free time while pursuing her degree in education–an experience that she could learn from while making a difference in the world for even just one child. After some encouragement from her mother, Angelica eagerly committed to advocating for children in foster care in Cumberland County.
“I am so proud of my daughter Angelica for being such a strong person despite all obstacles,” said Wanda. “She is an inspiration to me and others who know her. She is truly compassionate and always willing to help others. Volunteering as a CASA was a great opportunity for her to do what she loves and that is helping others achieve their goals and become happier and more successful individuals. I just know she will make a great teacher one day because she will enrich the lives of many children.”
In the few short months since Angelica was sworn in by the Family Court Judge this past March, she already began advocating for her first child. She jumped in to help with an open mind, constantly receptive to gaining new knowledge and learning new ways to better serve others.
“Angelica embodies the best attributes of an effective CASA. She consistently visited her CASA child and always came prepared with engaging activities to connect with her,” said her Cumberland County Advocate Coordinator, Vivian Salmon. “Angelica was patient, persistent, and willing to learn the process of an international reunification. She is an example of one volunteer making the world of difference for a young child.”
It was exactly this patience, persistence, and willingness to learn that equipped Angelica to create a deep connection with her CASA youth in such a short period of time.
“One of the most rewarding moments I’ve had as a volunteer was when my CASA youth hugged me for the first time. It was so unexpected because she barely knew me but it was like she felt like she had an instant friend. She was so genuine and innocent and I’ll never forget that,” said Angelica.
Moments like these as a CASA volunteer have opened her eyes and taught her so much about understanding different situations that she’s never personally experienced before.
“I feel so deeply for these types of situations now after becoming a volunteer and it just shows you that you have to be sensitive to everyone you meet. Someone might be acting normal but behind the scenes there could be so much going on,” she added.
Angelica’s crucial support and advocacy ultimately lead to the child’s reunification with her mother. Because of Angelica, a sweet, innocent young girl in her community felt a little less alone and little more loved and supported–and that is the best gift that she can ever give.
Thank you, Angelica, for your eagerness to learn and dedication to advocating for children who have experienced abuse and neglect in your community. You are a stellar advocate and we are so grateful you joined our team. Your hard work never goes unnoticed!