CASA of Berks County

Reading Area Community College and Court Appointed Special Advocates of Berks County Implement Bridging Cultures Partnership

Citizen Volunteers learn effective communication tools to advocate for Hispanic children in foster care.


Wyomissing, PA -- (ReleaseWire) -- 01/20/2020 --Alexis Jardine of Reading Area Community College (RACC) partnered with leaders in the Reading Hispanic community to present a two-day workshop for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Berks County. Entitled "Bridging Cultures" the weekend workshop conducted on January 11 and 12, 2020, was the result of the partnership between the two organizations to improve outreach to Hispanic children.

"This workshop really gave practical tools to take back and apply to our jobs." said Janine Torres, CASA Volunteer Advocate, "Building bridges between cultures is key to helping people live together in unity."

According to the Annie E Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Center, there is an average of 500 children in foster care in Berks County each month. Of those children approximately 46% are from Hispanic families. "Our volunteers are caring professionals from a variety of fields, but they have little knowledge of Hispanic family practices and values." said Nancy McCullar, Executive Director CASA Berks County, "We looked at how to best meet the needs of the children we served. Instead of the slow process of recruiting bicultural volunteers one by one, it made more sense for all of our volunteer advocates to learn how to work with and advocate for Hispanic children in foster care. Alexis Jardine and RACC put together a workshop that exceeded our expectations."

Speakers at the two-day workshop included Waldo Alvarado, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Reading School District, Sheila Negron, Former Director of Migrant Head Start Berks County, Dr. Danelle Bower, faculty RACC, and Mike Toledo, Executive Director, Centro Hispano among others. Successful communication methods with Hispanic families, comparing family values, understanding the 4 essential F's, and new ways to think about cultural inclusion were some of the many topics covered in the workshops.

Shari Wapinsky, school nurse in Fleetwood School District and a CASA volunteer advocate, summed up everyone's opinion when she said, "This workshop was amazing. This would be a great asset to all school districts to learn how to deal with cultural diversity." Brenda Druck, CASA Volunteer Coordinator added, "I feel so much more comfortable about my ability to interact with children and families of the Latino Community. Learning that we can respect both cultures and bridge our differences to navigate a child through the court system was eye-opening."

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Berks is a non-profit organization that trains and supports volunteer citizens who advocate for children in foster care to ensure their well-being. More information on CASA is available at: or email

If your organization is interested in the Cultural Awareness and Diversity Training offered by Alexis Jardine of Reading Area Community College, please contact Mike Salute at 610.372.4721 ext. 5176.