Hearts of Yolo: Roxanne Rice

Thursday, Apr 26, 2018

A retired teacher and then administrator of 26 years, Roxanne Rice has always felt a connection with at-risk youths. “Really, all youths are at-risk, but some are more in need than others. After being in the school system for nearly three decades, I know how much at-risk youths like those in the dependency system benefit from extra time and attention.”

Roxanne first heard about Yolo County CASA from her daughter who is a school administrator in Esparto. “When I retired she told me that I would be a great fit for an organization called Yolo County CASA. After doing some of my own research, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue.”

Roxanne has been a CASA volunteer for two years and has two assignments. Both are at-risk teenagers. “With both girls, we talk about the future a lot since one of them is almost 17 and the other almost 18. We talk about what they want to do when they grow up and how that looks in relation to where they are at now. We map out the possibilities and steps to get there. I have educational rights for both girls so I am in a position to help them get further to their goals.”

Roxanne acknowledges that the path is long and full of baby steps. “When you work with at-risk youth, sometimes you wonder if things are resonating. For example, I’ve had students where I’ve wondered if things were sinking in, and then ten years later I’ve heard that they're in medical school. Being a CASA volunteer is similar. You try your hardest to give the best guidance you can, and you realize your impact in various ways.”

Speaking of realizing impact, this past Christmas, Roxanne took one of her CASA youths shopping and told her to pick out whatever she wanted. “She picked out some nice makeup and didn’t say much at the time. A few months later, we were in a meeting together and she had the makeup in her hand. I realized it was one of the few personal possessions she had of her very own and she was really proud of it.”

Roxanne’s other CASA youth lives farther away and they do not see each other as often. Roxanne says, “We have this tradition where I write her postcards from wherever I am. She’s kept every one of them. It’s powerful when you have someone in your life that makes an effort to say, ‘I’m here for you. I’m thinking about you.’ Many at-risk youths do not have that feeling.”

Speaking of being there for her CASA youth, Roxanne also reflects on the times that one of them has run away. “There have been a few times where I haven’t seen her for three to four months at a time because she ran away again. I approach situations like that with no judgment. We just move forward and make the best of the path ahead. It’s important that these kids feel they have a place of safety and love no matter what happens. Most kids get to take that kind of support system for granted, but foster children do not.”

Roxanne’s son in law is currently training to become a CASA volunteer. The advice she gives him, and anyone else considering becoming a volunteer is simple. “Revel in the baby steps because it takes many baby steps to make big change. Your job as a CASA volunteer is to consistently show that you care, and provide little pieces of encouragement and goals as you move forward in your relationship. The big victories come from the preparation. The journey—and showing them that they can have a different journey-- is what matters most to most at-risk youth.”


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