The tireless, all-volunteer team of court-appointed special advocates (CASA) at Children's Voice: CASA, Inc. give a voice to the unheard children of Douglas County. A chapter of the National CASA and Georgia CASA, the local outpost advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children involved in juvenile-court deprivation proceedings, speaking up for the needs of children who might otherwise get lost in the overburdened legal and social-services system. The volunteers—each of whom has completed 30 hours of pre-service training and 10 hours of court observation—take on a wide range of responsibilities on behalf of children, including gathering information, appearing in court, seeking solutions, and explaining the process to the child.
Conceived in Seattle in 1976, National CASA originated as a way to empower abused and neglected children. Nationwide, advocates have helped more than two million children find safe, permanent homes since the organization’s founding. In the last year alone, volunteers have represented 243,000 children—about half of the children in the country’s child-welfare system at a given time.
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Erica McDonald became a teenage mother while still in high school at the age of 16. She worked hard to graduate and gain her bachelor's degree in teaching and has since striven to help other young people accomplish similar goals. As part of this aim, she founded Treasurechest Learning Systems, which combines a specially designed curriculum of seminars for teens and presentations for parents to help teens return to school after childbirth and achieve future success and self-sufficiency.
The organization's program works with teenagers to determine what they need to accomplish to graduate, and creates plans of action for attending postsecondary school or finding places in the workforce. Participants are required to complete at least three applications for postsecondary education or jobs. Should students decide to pursue a resultant opportunity, Treasurechest Learning Systems can identify useful social services and provide transportation for a limited time, application fees, uniforms, and shoes to achieve this goal.
After providing in-home computer systems, CFY teaches students and their families how to utilize the new equipment most effectively with a half day of family-learning workshops. The goal of the Home Learning Centers is to supply students with a valuable resource for engaging with difficult academic material, and equip family members to serve as more effective learning partners. Computer systems come loaded with a number of useful programs, including Microsoft Office, a typing tutorial, and antivirus software, so the equipment can serve as a helpful tool throughout the course of a student's education.
Known for guiding the women of The Real Housewives of Atlanta through ab-strengthening moves, the instructors at the Nazeem Allayl Belly Dance Studio started as a professional dance troupe before opening a studio in 1999. Now with 32 classes offered under one roof, the Nazeem Allayl Belly Dance Studio aims to boost the self-confidence of its all-female students during drop-in Shimmy Fit classes and five-week technique courses. Instructors disguise calorie-blasting exercises with engaging choreography so that students can tone muscles without spending the day trying to slip an oiled-up pig into a wetsuit.
The Homes for the Holidays program eases the financial strain of furnishing a new home by supplying basic necessities, including furniture, appliances, and pantry items. Fully stocked pantries come complete with dry and frozen foods, meats, bakery items, produce, dairy items, paper products, and classic holiday dishes. By helping to allay the costs of basic necessities, the program helps increase parents' discretionary income for other expenses such as afterschool care and doctor's visits, and gives families a foundation of nutritious foods to help them establish healthful eating habits.