Jackie Willis loves to take hikes in the woods, workout and do yoga, read, travel, and eat good food. She has a 22 year old son and 25 year old daughter.
And now, she is graciously adding a new element to what it means to be “Jackie”: becoming a CASA volunteer. Jackie graduated from CASA training on November 10th alongside eight other community members.
Having been exposed to and around people throughout her life who have suffered from job loss, addictions, and tough times, Jackie feels that she can “relate to situations where unfortunately a child is put in a less than ideal situation,” and she wants to use that relatability to advocate for the best interests of children in these situations. “I have, like all of us, seen and heard terrible cases of abuse,” says Jackie. “There is no bigger job in the world than to raise children, and it’s difficult. I heard of CASA before moving to Nashville, and I’ve never volunteered for anything, but I’ve always known that if I was going to give my time, energy, and passion to anything, it would be to a help a child.”
Jackie lived in Ohio before coming to Nashville and remembers hearing about CASA years ago. She would see the advertisements for CASA in the newspaper, cut them out, and put them on her desk. “This is what I want to do,” she’d think.
After moving to Nashville, Jackie had a non-CASA related conversation with a friend that knew one of the people on the National CASA’s Board of Trustees. When Jackie looked up CASA to find out more about it, his was the first name she saw. “I believe that nothing is coincidental, that everything happens for a reason,” says Jackie. When she saw his name, she thought, “Okay that’s it.”
Fast forward to the present time and Jackie is no longer just thinking about what it would be like to become a CASA volunteer. Before training, Jackie said, “I had no idea how many kids were in foster care! We have no idea that this goes on. At every economic level there are children at risk. Having been exposed to people in my life that suffer from addiction, abuse, and neglect, I feel like I have the emotional capacity and the life experience to truly understand the needs of the children and the families.” Now, armed with her life experiences, knowledge of the foster care system, a strong desire to serve others, and a desire to put her training to the test, Jackie is ready to step into the role of a Court Appointed Special Advocate and be a voice for neglected and abused children.
What advice would Jackie give to those on the fence of becoming a CASA volunteer? “The best advice I can give,” says Jackie, “is to realize that the CASA volunteer – albeit very important and mighty – is one small piece of the big picture, and to not go in assuming that we can fix everything and everybody and every piece of the entire picture.” Jackie has learned from her training just how important her part of the picture is, but that she must work alongside others to make a difference, remembering that there is no one-size-fits-all, easy fix. “Regardless of what your background is, all you need is the compassion and an open heart and open mind.”
And that is exactly what you have, Jackie.
We are so grateful for your thoughtful way of approaching your new role, the compassion that is evident in your tone and your actions, and your ability to put others above yourself.
Jackie is for the child “Because I can be. And because there is a child in all of us that helps us realize they need us.”
Take a chance.
Lift up a child’s voice. A child’s life.™
Find out more about CASA here.