Miss South Carolina is no stranger to center stage, however, her behind-the-scenes work is what’s making her a star for some local children.
Suzi Roberts was crowned Miss South Carolina at a statewide pageant held June 24 in Richland County. During the competition, Roberts took time to spotlight a cause she’s passionate about: child advocacy and volunteering with Richland County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). Roberts has been involved with the organization since 2015, serving as a legal representative, called a Guardian ad Litem, who speaks on behalf of abused and mistreated children in family court.
“Since becoming a Guardian ad Litem, I’ve learned more than I could have ever dreamed,” said Roberts, who first became involved in child advocacy after watching a family friend experience years of neglect.
“She was neglected in her early years and it went unnoticed because her family was seemingly perfect from the outside. Once I saw the effects on that child as she grew into adulthood, I knew I had to do something. That’s why I initially got involved with Richland County CASA.”
Richland County has 650 volunteers who receive training to speak for the best interests of more than 1,500 children. Without CASA representatives, some of those children could be placed in unsafe homes or remain entangled in the family court system for years.
“Our CASA volunteers change children’s lives forever,” said Richland County Council Chair Joyce Dickerson, District 2. “They are a saving grace for a lot of these children, and people like Suzi epitomize the love and compassion our volunteers have for the individuals and families they represent.”
CASA Supervisor Melissa Hickey said Roberts is deeply committed to the children she represents, and she treats each of her cases like it’s the most important case she’ll ever have.
“She’s a firecracker when it comes to kids,” Hickey said. “Suzi is not afraid to jump in and do anything. She wants nothing but the best thing for every child she represents.”
Roberts plans to continue to promote the importance of volunteerism and Guardians ad Litem as she takes the national stage in the Miss America competition in Atlantic City, N.J. in September.
Richland County’s CASA program has garnered a lot of national attention on its own accord. The program has received more than a dozen awards from the National CASA Association and other organizations for exceptional service and exemplary work, including:
· Director Paige Greene named national CASA director of the year in 2015
· Guardian ad Litem Deirdre Stogdill named national child advocate of the year in 2016
· 2017 Promising Practices Award for the use of innovative methods
To learn more about Richland County CASA, including how to become a volunteer, visit www.rccasa.org or call 803-576-1735.