Updated: Nov 16
Lily Corzo learned about CASA when she was living in Los Angeles. After moving to Bryn Mawr in the spring of 2021, she wanted to do something to give back to the community. She began volunteering with CASA Youth Advocates in Delaware County in June 2021. Lily, who is fluent in both Spanish and French, has been a significant asset in several cases that involve families who are not English – speaking. Over the last two years, Lily has independently researched the country and culture her CASA youth left behind. Because of her drive and dedication, Lily has been named CASA’s 2023 Advocate of the Year.
One of Lily’s cases involved an 11 – year- old boy named Fredo, who came to the United States from Guatemala with his father. After living with a relative, Fredo was placed with his foster mom. While his parents are quite present in his life, his case was complex due to language barriers. Fredo's parents speak very little English and Spanish. Their native language is IXIL. This made it very hard to communicate with Fredo's CYS worker, teachers, lawyers, and others involved in his case.
After learning of this complication, Lily took action to find a solution.
“She appealed to elected officials in the county to explore the language barriers that exist that prevent meaningful engagement with families who speak this particular dialect and urged them to consider thinking creatively in their search for language services,” explained Lily’s Case Supervisor, Tamara Wilson.
Lily even acted as a translator when Fredo’s birth mother and foster mother, who is of Puerto Rican descent and knows little Spanish, met for the first time.
“I was happy to be there to make everyone more comfortable,” she said. “It was awkward at first, but everyone had a great time by the end of the day.”
Because Lily could communicate with Fredo’s family in Spanish, it allowed her to pass along information to his teachers and others on his case.
“They were happy to hear from someone who knew the child,” she said. “Letting them know English was Fredo’s third language helped them understand some of the challenges he faced.”
While Lily understands how important it is to be able to communicate verbally, she wants other advocates to know that it is essential to learn about your CASA youth’s culture as well.
“It is important to realize that it is not just the language that is different; it is the culture,” said Lily. “It is a huge culture shock to come to the United States. How people live, how people act, everything is different. Having someone who understands their culture makes them more comfortable.”