April is Volunteer Appreciation Month and we are beyond grateful for the powerful and inspiring contributions made by our CASA Volunteers. This month, we are spotlighting (and extremely grateful for) Dan Ahmadi, a CASA Volunteer who felt they had more to give and is doing just that. Get to know Dan beyond his advocacy.
April Advocate Spotlight: Danoush (Dan) Ahmadi, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer
Years of service with Child Advocates of Silicon Valley: 7+ months
Number of children served: 1 total
When Dan Ahmadi is not on the clock as the Vice President of International Marketing and Demand Generation at Branch or listening to his all-time favorite DJ, Odezsa, he is a parent to Luna the Labradoodle and Max the Cat. They are great siblings to one another and are his secret weapon when connecting with his current foster youth.
In 2021, one year into the pandemic, Dan was eager to give back to his community, specifically to children and teens, so he searched for programs where he could be a mentor and teach them the importance of financial wellness. None of the organizations he came across spoke to him until his close friend and manager at Branch recommended Child Advocates of Silicon Valley. His manager invited him to their Swearing-In Ceremony to learn more about the program. After the ceremony, Dan knew he wanted to become a CASA Volunteer. Dan attended an upcoming info session, finished training, and began his advocacy journey in September 2021.
Dan is the oldest of three siblings, so he has constantly been exposed to having a teenager in the house. With that experience, he felt like he could connect with foster teens fairly easily. Dan vividly remembered his teen years and wanted to give those kinds of experiences to a foster teen. Upon discovering that teens and non-minor dependents (NMDs) tend to stay in the dependency system longer and can be on the waiting list for an extended time, he knew his first case had to be with a teen. Dan chose his first teen case because, although the teen had a complicated past, he knew that his teen is a kind-hearted, caring and good person. Dan is willing to put in the time and effort to be a role model for his youth.
When Dan began his advocacy, he realized how privileged he was growing up. He learned that even just growing up with two parents is a privilege in itself and is something that none of the children and youth have while in the dependency system. Being a CASA Volunteer definitely opened his eyes to how difficult it is for a child to grow up without the necessary resources, the right mentorship and the support needed to succeed.
“The challenges are difficult, and the issues are deeply rooted. It’s not easy to untangle all of that right away. These children and youth are going through a confusing and difficult time, and they are feeling lost without someone being a voice, mentor and be an advocate for them” – Dan Ahmadi
Dan is appreciative of the support he receives from Child Advocates, especially from his CASA Supervisor, Nick Aguilar, who has been helpful throughout the whole process. Dan is also grateful that his manager at work is a CASA because she encourages him to take time off from work to meet with his foster teen every Wednesday. Whenever Dan has a CASA emergency or has to attend court, his manager understands and knows he might need to take the day off for his CASA Volunteer responsibilities.
“Even if there is bad weather, sickness, or my teen doesn’t feel like meeting, I will still SHOW UP and be there for them” – Dan Ahmadi
When Dan found out that his youth enjoys the outdoors just as much as he does, he introduced him to hiking. Dan did some research and found out that the County of Santa Clara has a program where they will purchase up to $400 of active gear for foster youth every school year, and hiking gear falls into that category. He filled out all the necessary paperwork to get a new set of hiking gear for his youth. Dan is ecstatic that he gets to share these new experiences with his foster youth and do fun things together.
“I found out how to get free YMCA memberships and open a free account with Excite Credit Union for foster youth. The credit union will also put money into the foster youth’s account as birthday gifts, which is amazing! There are so many resources available for your foster youth.” – Dan Ahmadi
Dan has been recommending the CASA Program to anyone he thinks will greatly influence foster youth because the program is so rewarding and essential for foster kids. But it isn’t devoid of challenges. He reminds himself daily to celebrate the little wins, and that little wins can lead to big wins. It was hard for Dan to accept this advice early on as a CASA. In the beginning, he panicked and thought that he had to immediately help and turn his youth’s life around. He felt that meeting with them only 2 hours a week wasn’t enough time to truly make a difference. Over time, Dan has learned that it’s not about his expectations, it’s about meeting them where they’re at, understanding what it is they want for themselves and then supporting them along the way.
“If you haven’t heard about Child Advocates or the CASA Program, or if you are learning about it through the Advocate Spotlight, and you feel like you want to make an impact on someone young, so they can carry that impact for the rest of their lives, then you should take the next step and go to the info session. Don’t second guess yourself and think you might not be qualified to be a great CASA. There are so many foster children on the waitlist waiting for someone who can make a positive influence on their life” – Dan Ahmadi
Fun Facts About Dan
Last Book You’ve Read: The last book that Dan has read is called No Such Thing As A Bad Kid by Charles D. Applestein, which was recommended by our Child Advocate’s own Supervisor Superstar, Dorothy Ross. The book is written for anyone that works or volunteers with at-risk children and youth, and how to tap into their greatness.
Favorite Food/Dish: Dan’s all-time favorite food is hamburgers. Dan especially loves restaurant burgers because they’re the perfect mix of all the food groups; there’s protein, grains, vegetables, and the best food group of all time, sauces! Hamburgers are basically a vector for sauces and must be complemented with fries. Dan recommends going to a restaurant called Godfather’s Burger Lounge in Belmont, CA. Dan also took his youth there and agrees that it is the spot to be. Godfather Burger has Child Advocates’ seal of approval.
Favorite Place You’ve Traveled To: Dan’s favorite place in the world is hands down Koh Samui (coast of Thailand), As an avid scuba diver, he says the island is a great dive site. Koh Samui is the perfect combination of beach vibes, a mix of chill and electronic dance music, and the food and people are amazing. Dan also recommends Koh Samui because they have a great exchange rate. If you ever visit Koh Samui or Thailand in general, definitely try to attend their Full Moon Party.
Favorite Hobbies: Dan enjoys scuba diving, long-distance road biking, cycling, sailing, woodworking, gardening, traveling,
Best Advice You’ve Ever Received: “Live Everyday Like It Could Be Your Last” – Dan’s Uncle
In his 20s, Dan was mostly focused on his career and financial stability, and because of that Dan didn’t spend time with his family and friends. He realizes now that life goes by one day at a time, and doesn’t slow down for anybody. You never know when your last day is, so you try to live life like everyday’s your last, with no regrets.
If you are thinking about becoming a CASA Volunteer, you can reach out personally to Dan, and he can help answer any questions that you may have about being a CASA, or give more insight into the CASA Volunteer experience. You can reach Dan at email@example.com