Get to know CASA’s new Executive Director Arika Orozco
Have you ever seen Undercover Boss? The episodes are always the same. The head honcho goes undercover to find out that he is completely clueless about his company’s day-to-day operations. It may be tough to film an episode of Undercover Boss at CASA for Children of DC with a staff of 12 (and the occasional foster cat), but I would imagine the episode would go much differently. That’s because Arika Orozco has held every position at CASA for Children of DC! So it was only fitting that when CASA needed a new Executive Director, Arika was the obvious choice. As of May 2019, Arika has taken on the challenge of growing CASA to new heights and ensuring that every court-involved foster youth in DC has access to a volunteer special advocate. That’s no small task for a team of 12, but with Arika at the helm we have no doubt she’ll succeed!
So who is this Wonder Woman, you ask? We asked Arika to take a few minutes out of her busy schedule to answer that very question and a few more!
What brought you to CASA?
Working with abused and neglected children has been a cause close to my heart since I was growing up. I found out about the CASA organization when I was in undergrad at Texas Tech and had a debate coach who loved the organization and spoke very highly of it. When I moved to DC a few years later for my MSW program, I had the opportunity to intern with CASA and fell in love with the mission and the model. I’ve been connected ever since! In those 11 years, I’ve held nearly every role at the organization – intern, volunteer, Executive Assistant, Program Coordinator, Senior Manager, Chief of Staff and now Executive Director. I’ve learned from every colleague, volunteer, and supervisor I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with, and truly believe the model of taking “everyday people” and connecting them to a single young person is a model that helps empower youth to succeed in accomplishing their goals and dreams.
What has been your proudest accomplishment while at CASA?
My proudest accomplishment is what we’ve done as a team over the past 11 years at CASA. The organization has changed a great deal during that time and I’m proud of where we are today and where we are going. We have great leadership from our Board President, a very dedicated senior management team and a team of staff and volunteers that are truly passionate about what they are doing. Our staff is incredibly diverse and talented and I’m grateful for the perspectives they each bring to the table. As an organization, and because of our volunteers, we are serving more children than ever in our history, we are tracking and measuring our impact, and we are building strong partnerships in our community. Each of these efforts benefits our kids and helps them achieve their dreams.
What is one thing you wish people knew about CASA?
I wish people knew how easy it was to change a child’s life. Being a Court Appointed Special Advocate is not an “easy” volunteer opportunity. But, the impact of a single volunteer can literally change a child’s story and their path in life. Not everyone is in a position to be an adoptive or foster parent, but being a CASA is something that most people can incorporate into their life. Most of our volunteers work full-time, many are parents, and all of them have full lives outside of CASA. You don’t have to fit a certain “mold” to be a volunteer, you just have to be willing to commit to making a difference. Come as you are! We’ll work with you and provide training and on-going coaching.
What would you be doing if you weren’t working at CASA?
I love to volunteer and typically spend at least 5-10 hours a week doing volunteer activities with a few organizations. One of my favorite ways to volunteer is by bringing my black lab Jazz to sit in therapy sessions with teenagers who have been through trauma and are struggling with mental health challenges. So, if I wasn’t working at CASA and was independently wealthy, I would spend my time volunteering. And cruising. I’d definitely take more cruises too.
Name your 5 dream dinner party guests (dead or alive).
Susan B. Anthony
Mamie Phipps Clark
Stephen R. Covey
Arika, we hope that you’ll take some time in between all of your good deeds to go on that cruise! If you’d like to learn more about Arika’s transition to Executive Director, check out our official Press Release announcement.