In the world of child advocacy, countless unsung heroes selflessly dedicate their time and
energy to make a profound difference in the lives of vulnerable children. One such remarkable advocate is Elise Palazzi, whose journey as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is an inspiring testament to the power of compassion and unwavering dedication.
Elise's journey as a CASA advocate began in December 2022. At that point in her life, she was facing retirement from her career as a massage therapist and substitute teacher. Her path to becoming a dedicated CASA volunteer was set in motion by a chance conversation with a client who introduced her to the organization. Initially, she held misconceptions about the role, but her understanding soon evolved. Elise shared, "As a young child in kindergarten, I volunteered myself and my best friend to help a blind schoolmate onto and off the bus every day. This is just who I am. So, CASA is a perfect fit for me."
Her initial hesitations about becoming a CASA volunteer soon turned into unwavering commitment. The experience of connecting with children while substitute teaching at a middle school was a pivotal moment that drove her to explore the CASA program further. She stated, "Once my substitute teaching certificate lapsed, there was a huge gap in my life. I genuinely missed the teens and children in general. This void spurred me to research the CASA program in more detail."
Elise's work as a CASA advocate has been marked by countless memorable moments that illuminate the profound impact she has on the lives of the children she serves. Her first notable memory was a simple text message response from her 16-year-old CASA teen. To her, this seemingly small act signified the blossoming of trust between them. She recalled, "I know that may sound silly, but I took it as a great sign that she was beginning to trust me."
Another heartwarming memory is when her CASA teen shared a genuine smile. These small, sincere moments serve as constant reminders of the difference she is making in these young lives. Furthermore, hearing words of appreciation from the biological mother of her 14-year-old CASA teen touched her deeply. These moments fuel her commitment to the CASA cause, reinforcing the value of her tireless efforts.
What sets Elise apart is her exceptional ability to connect with the children she serves. She understands the importance of stability in their lives and knows that showing up out of genuine care can make all the difference. She firmly believes in being a constant presence in her CASA teen's life, even beyond the system's confines. She shared,
"It is my goal to remain with my CASA teen until she ages out of the system and hopefully check in with her from time to time even after the fact. I cheer her accomplishments and try to make the little things happen in her life. I love being a part of that."
Elise shares that the passion for her work is complemented by the incredible support and camaraderie she finds within the CASA team. Their professionalism and dedication inspire her to continue making a difference. She aptly noted, "I could not have asked for a better group of women to work alongside and be mentored by. The learning never stops, and that is just fine with me; it is endless. There will always be another CASA kid that needs a volunteer."
Elise's work as a CASA volunteer extends beyond the courtroom and casework. She has gone above and beyond by spotting opportunities to enhance the lives of her CASA children. Her involvement in securing transportation for her CASA child's transition to a new school, joining her husband's efforts to purchase, deliver, and assemble shelves for the donation room, and even running out to get a bigger suitcase for her CASA teen during a placement change demonstrate her dedication and resourcefulness.
Vivian, Cumberland Advocate Coordinator, shares, "Elise is gifted with patience and sage instincts that guide her ability to become an anchoring CASA to her youth. She does not pre-judge and will let circumstances guide her advocacy work. When confronted with a challenge, Elise is simply tireless in her quest to find solutions." Her unwavering dedication to the welfare of the children she serves and her tireless spirit in the face of challenges make her a truly exceptional CASA advocate. Elise's ability to connect with and support her CASA children is a testament to her extraordinary commitment to the cause.
In her personal life, Elise enjoys various activities, including walking, biking, watercolor painting, yoga, and her love for dogs. These hobbies not only speak to her well-rounded nature but also serve as outlets to recharge her spirit, ensuring she remains a guiding light for the children she advocates for. Her passion for these activities not only nourishes her own well-being but also enhances her ability to provide unwavering support to the children she advocates for. Through her love for dogs and her artistic pursuits, she exemplifies qualities of empathy, creativity, and resilience, which she extends to the young lives she touches.
Salem Advocate Coordinator, Cara, says, "I have had the great pleasure of working with Elise since January of 2023. Elise is the epitome of a teen advocate. Elise is mindful of each teen's unique journey and is patient with the process of connecting. She encourages and applauds her teen for independent advocacy while providing additional case advocacy behind the scenes. Elise makes everyone around her feel like a million bucks, and her teen was able to see firsthand that she hit the jackpot after having Elise in her corner at court. Elise provided an emotional testimony on her teen's behalf. From that day forward, her teen referred to Elise as her advocate and stated, 'She is another voice for me.' Elise, you are making a difference one teen at a time and creating many ripples."
Elise's story is a shining example of how one individual's unwavering commitment and compassion can create lasting ripples of positive change in the lives of children in need. She embodies the spirit of a true CASA advocate, making the world a better place one child at a time. To quote Mother Teresa, "I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples." Elise is indeed casting stones that are creating waves of change and hope, and for that, we salute her incredible work as a CASA advocate.