CASA of the Pikes Peak Region volunteer recruitment was down and executive director Trudy Strewler Hodges saw an opportunity online to get more recruits.

She nominated the Court Appointed Special Advocate of the Pikes Peak Region program to be part of pilot last year that uses a college-style distance learning program to get volunteers trained and ready to be an advocate for a child in the courts.

She was hearing from too many potential volunteers that they couldn’t commit to the 40-hour classroom training, which is either one solid week or spread over a five-week period.

“We felt we needed to do something more cutting-edge,” Hodges said.

It worked. Volunteers flocked to the flexible, online training program, which includes 15 hours of online training and 15 hours in the classroom.

“We just offered flex training again this summer,” Hodges said. “National CASA suggested we offer it for 15 people; we filled that and ended up with 15 more. It has substantially increased the number of people training this summer to be advocates.”

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CASA is a national nonprofit organization that trains court-appointed advocates for children. The training has been a 40-hour in classroom model.

Jesse Murillo wanted to volunteer at CASA. He lives in Colorado Springs, but works in Denver.

“With the 40-hour training, working 40 hours a week and the commute time, it would have been impossible,” he said. “I found out about online training and I jumped on the opportunity.”

Now, he is just three weeks away from completing the CASA flex training program.

“There is a shortage of male volunteers – we have several in our class,” Murillo said. “I think this training presented a greater opportunity for them.”

This summer, National CASA rolled out the flex training to all its 1,000 organizations across the country. The flex training program uses case studies and training videos that help volunteers learn how to behave and act in their role as a child advocate. They also have weekly face-to-face meetings with trainers to answer questions.

Volunteers who completed the training felt better prepared for their first case than those who went through the typical classroom training, Hodges said.

“I was pretty excited about this whole concept,” Hodges said. “Some staff thought ‘oh no, another change.’ They needed to see that volunteers would be as skilled as volunteers from the other (classroom) training.”

CASA of the Pikes Peak Region was training about 50 to 60 volunteers a year, but Hodges is hoping for much more using this online program. There are more than 600 children in the Pikes Peak region on the waiting list for a court-appointed advocate, she said.

“Our goal is to serve every child,” she said. “This flex training will help us exponentially reach that goal.”

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  • Elena

    I want to get involved to help these kids.