In early March 2020, newly trained Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), Joelle, was matched with Zianna, a 17-year-old foster youth. Zianna is an out-of-county foster youth, which means that although her case is with the Santa Clara County Dependency Court, her placement (where she lives) is in a different county. Naturally, it is difficult to pair out of county foster youth with a CASA, and when they’re matched, the distance between them makes advocating a little more difficult.
Regardless, Joelle was up for the challenge.
A few days after Joelle and Zianna were matched, the world shut down around them, around all of us, because of the pandemic. Despite the additional challenges, and disappointment, this presented, Joelle adopted our virtual advocacy program and began to email and text regularly with Zianna. She was committed to SHOWING UP for Zianna now more than ever. They built their relationship by having weekly calls, which eventually turned into in-person meetups, once it was safe to do so.
Joelle quickly learned that Zianna is a driven youth who goes after what she wants, but even Zianna acknowledges how hard it was to stay motivated with the stress of virtual school and other activities. Joelle encouraged Zianna and helped her find the motivation to keep pushing forward.
With college on the horizon, the big question that Joelle wanted to help Zianna answer was, “how do we get you to college without having to take out loans?” The two spent the pandemic working on college applications, applying for scholarships and navigating financial aid. With Joelle by her side, Zianna learned about programs and opportunities available to her that would make college a reality. This included financial benefits available to foster youth at the age of 18, which they advocated for together and Zianna now receives. All the while, Joelle remained engaged with the Court’s electronic decision-making process to ensure Zianna’s voice was heard.
This year, Zianna graduated from high school with a 4.0 GPA while also participating in sports like tennis and soccer. She was named a finalist with Questbridge, a prestigious national program, and was accepted into several universities!
We are elated to share with you that Zianna is attending UC Davis this fall! With Joelle’s support, she is enrolled in several programs to support her transition into college and has received scholarships and funding to cover housing, tuition and books. To further ensure Zianna was set up for success, Joelle visited our CASA Store to secure a bicycle, laptop and essential dorm room items.
In the words of Zianna, “the more support you have, especially as a foster kid, the better.”
This story is shared with the permission of Zianna and Joelle.