December 13, 2021
Dallas CASA volunteer encourages siblings to preserve their heritage
Preston Hollow, TX resident Juan Nevarez was looking for a way to give back. When he found Dallas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), he found how to bring significance to his life. “I get so much more than what I give as an advocate,” he said. “It’s such a great feeling to work with these kids and be able to help.”
Nevarez, a native Spanish speaker, found Dallas CASA through a bilingual recruiting event offered by the agency. While Latinos represent 34 percent of Dallas County children removed from home due to abuse or neglect, only about nine percent of Dallas CASA volunteers are Latino.
Nevarez, the eighth of 11 siblings growing up in Juarez, Mexico, immigrated to Amarillo alone at age 15 to live with his godmother. “The culture shock was profound. It was scary, honestly,” he said. “I wasn’t ready for the differences. It was a tough transition. It probably took me 18 months to really feel okay.”
His godmother encouraged education, making him believe he could succeed. He started in English as a Second Language classes, then moved out of those classes to a different high school. Next came junior college, then Texas Tech University where he majored in petroleum engineering and then went on to get a Master’s in Business Administration. Today, he’s an oil and gas executive at a company he helped start more than 10 years ago.
After reading the book “Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance” recently, Nevarez wanted to give back. He completed 30 hours of Dallas CASA training and courtroom observations and now advocates on behalf of children in the protective care of the state. In 2020, 1,527 Dallas CASA volunteers advocated for 3,374 Dallas County children.
Nevarez is currently assigned to three young brothers in foster care. Like Nevarez, they are native Spanish speakers. “They are learning English, so we go back and forth between Spanish and English pretty easily,” he said. “I tell them I don’t want them to lose their Spanish. That’s a very important part of who they are. I think they like hearing that.” They talk about football and play Putt-Putt and enjoy hanging out, but Nevarez has impressed on them the importance of education.
Recently, the oldest sibling was facing some struggles in school, and the boys’ foster placement reached out to Nevarez for assistance. He took all three boys to his office one Saturday. Nevarez showed them his diplomas on the wall and his big desk. The boys wanted to know what he did to get an office so big. Nevarez told them: “Look, there are opportunities out there for you and education is your way to them.”
“I want these boys to know they can achieve anything,” he said. “I’m an example of that. I know a big part of why I am where I am today is because my godmother believed in education. If I can do the same thing for these boys, that would be amazing.”
Volunteers like Nevarez make a life-changing difference for children and youth. You can help National CASA/GAL and our network of 950 state and local programs continue to help children thrive by becoming a CASA or GAL volunteer. Find a local program and sign up today.