AT&T helps un­der­write fos­ter chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tional fu­ture

Imperial Valley Press - - LOCAL & REGION - BY WIL­LIAM ROLLER Staff Writer

Seiz­ing the ini­tia­tive to be a so­cially re­spon­si­ble cor­po­rate neigh­bor AT& T do­nated a $25,000 check to the Court Ap­pointed Spe­cial Ad­vo­cates of Im­pe­rial County on Fri­day at its branch lo­ca­tion in the Plaza @ Im­pe­rial Val­ley.

The be­quest was part of AT&T’s “As­pire” ini­tia­tive de­signed to keep chil­dren in school, cre­ate a path­way to higher ed­u­ca­tion or smooth the tran­si­tion to a gain­ful work­force en­deavor, noted Christine Moore, AT&T’s di­rec­tor of ex­ter­nal af­fairs. “It was an­other op­por­tu­nity to fund one more of our many wor­thy causes,” said Moore. “For fos­ter chil­dren it’s easy to get lost in a crowd, but CASA makes fos­ter kids mat­ter.”

CASA aims to im­prove aca­demic pro­mo­tion rates and high school grad­u­a­tion rates in grades nine through 12, said Alex Car­de­nas, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of CASA. A court ap­pointed ad­vo­cate’s re­spon­si­bil­ity is to serve as a men­tor to as­sure fos­ter youths re­main in school while in fos­ter care. The av­er­age fos­ter care youth typ­i­cally trans­fers to three dif­fer­ent schools in one year, noted Car­de­nas.

“AT&T al­ways had a strong so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity and our paths (Moore) crossed so she af­forded me the op­por­tu­nity to share the needs of our project,” said Car­de­nas. “The AT&T Foun­da­tion fo­cus is at-risk youth, so it aligns well with our mis­sion — pro­vid­ing chil­dren a voice in court from a com­mu­nity per­spec­tive so they are not left fend­ing for them­selves.”

Govern­ment pro­vides valu­able ser­vices such as pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion, hous­ing and safety but it can­not give love, noted Cal­i­for­nia State Sen. Ben Hueso. Still, fos­ter youths are vul­ner­a­ble to vi­o­lence and some­times tempted by gangs. If re­sources can be di­rected to­ward them they can avoid risky be­hav­ior and evade the in­no­cent de­struc­tion of fam­i­lies that can be pre­vented by sup­port­ing pro­grams like AT&T’s, he re­marked.

Un­for­tu­nately, fos­ter youths can find them­selves in dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions, said As­sem­bly­man Ed­uardo Gar­cia. But with AT&T’s gen­eros­ity they can ex­pe­ri­ence sta­bil­ity and ul­ti­mately re­pair and bring fam­i­lies to­gether, he added.

Juan Ul­loa, ju­ve­nile and fam­ily law pre­sid­ing judge of the Cal­i­for­nia Su­pe­rior Court, thanked Car­de­nas for the part­ner­ship he has built with the court and CASA as it flour­ished over the years. CASA ad­vo­cates have the best in­ter­ests of chil­dren in court, school and fam­ily, he noted.

“We’re all bet­ter off for it,” said Ul­loa. “CASA is on the cut­ting edge with 97 per­cent of chil­dren hav­ing CASA su­per­vi­sion. It’s all due to Alex and his staff.”

El Cen­tro Mayor Ja­son Jack­son thanked Car­de­nas and Ul­loa for pi­o­neer­ing the way. “AT&T has al­ways stepped up to the plate,” said Jack­son. “I don’t know a bet­ter cor­po­rate part­ner.”

Car­de­nas thanked AT&T for their re­mark­able sup­port. “The key we found to re­duce re­cidi­vism among fos­ter youth was recre­ation and ed­u­ca­tion,” he said. “CASA is do­ing tremen­dous cut­ting-edge work.”


FROM LEFT: Alex Mar­tinez, AT&T store man­ager; Christine Moore, AT&T di­rec­tor of ex­ter­nal af­fairs; Alex Car­de­nas, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Court Ap­pointed Spe­cial Ad­vo­cates of Im­pe­rial County, El Cen­tro Mayor Ja­son Jack­son; and Julio Figeu­roa, AT&T as­so­ciate of ex­ter­nal af­fairs, cel­e­brate an AT&T do­na­tion of $25,000 to CASA aimed at fos­ter youths on Fri­day at Im­pe­rial Val­ley Plaza in El Cen­tro.

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