Voices of Children and College Bound fundraisers

According to author Tom Robbins, ‘It’s never too late to have a happy childhood”. I found this quote on Google while researching childhood happiness for this column, and came to the conclusion that a lot of youngsters, without the help of Voices for Children (VFC), would never know either a happy childhood or adulthood. Voices for Children is a nonprofit organization that, since 1998, has been providing legal representation and social advocacy services for abused and neglected children involved in the most serious cases heard in St. Louis City’s Family Court. Each day in St. Louis, children in foster care struggle to heal from the abuse and neglect they have sustained. Voices for Children advocates speak on behalf of these children to improve their experiences and long-term outcomes. By ensuring that children receive educational, developmental, mental and physical services they so badly need to heal, Voices for Children breaks the cycle of child abuse and neglect.

Bob Bohm, a volunteer with Voices for Children (formally CASA St. Louis), is a very convincing man who got me hooked on this subject. He told me, “There are about 1,200 children in care in the city due to neglect or abuse. VFC cares for 1,065 of these kids who are served by 11 paid attorneys and 165 volunteers like me. Our goal is to increase the numbers of our paid attorneys, their staff and our volunteer advocates to see that the best interests for all the children we advocate for are met.”

On Thursday, June 5 Voices for Children will hold its third annual benefit at Windows on Washington, 701 N. 15th Street. There will be a cocktail reception followed by dinner and a live auction featuring some unbelievably interesting auction items. For example, you may bid on seven nights in a two bedroom Parisian apartment next to Notre Dame in the heart of Ile de la Cite, or if that does not intrigue you, how about cocktails for 20 with Senator Claire McCaskill in her home. For bibliophiles Waller McGuire, St. Louis Public Library Executive Director, will host a luncheon for eight in the library’s Stedman Room, a magical place that houses the architectural archives from the Stedman collection. “We hope to raise $150,000 by ticket sales, three levels of corporate sponsorship and the live auction.” Bohm explained. For individuals the cost of the evening is $200 per person, and tickets may be reserved by check, MasterCard, Visa and Discover. Call Laura Noelle Ragan, VFC Special Events Manager, at 314-552-2454 or send your check to her at 920 N. Vandeventer, St. Louis MO 63108-3530. Imagine the thanks you will receive from the staff of child advocacy attorneys, child welfare specialists, and the specially trained corps of volunteer advocates — those who seek for the kids a safe, stable home where they can thrive — for your contribution to their efforts.

COLLEGE BOUND WILL HOLD ITS FIRST ANNUAL CAP AND GOWN BALL and will break out the confetti and fling their mortarboards into the air. On June 14 at the MOTO Museum, 3441 Olive Boulevard, from 7 p.m to midnight there will be an open bar, dinner and dancing to the music of Motown as well as the fun of inspecting the museum’s fabulous motorcycle collection. The celebration is in honor of College Bound’s first graduating class and a fundraiser for future College Bound students. Individual tickets are priced at $150 while persons under thirty-five pay half price at $75 per ticket. For more information on College Bound’s Cap and Gown Ball call Ericka Zoll, 314-602-1699 or visit her on the Web at [email protected].

College Bound was founded in 2006 by three brilliant, caring women who were concerned with the fact that fewer than nine percent of students from low-income backgrounds receive their bachelor’s degree by the time they are 24, compared to 75 percent of students from high-income families. They were Lisa Orden Zarin, now executive director of College Bound; Ericka Zoll, Director of Development and Debbie Greenberg, Director of College Counseling. What I tell you about College Bound is only the tip of the iceberg, but enough for you to understand what a significant contribution these women are making. The program started with 38 students at the Clyde C. Miller Career Academy in the St. Louis Public School District and University City High School. They were the first in their families to pursue higher education. In defiance of the trend for disadvantaged youth to drop out of school or not go on to college, College Bound’s 38 students have achieved multiple admissions to four-year colleges.

When this first group of seniors leaves for college in the fall, 140 high school students will remain to follow in their footsteps, and even more are waiting to enroll. College Bound provides students with a comprehensive academic enrichment program, personalized guidance from college counselors, and exposure to cultural events and community service. Students create high-quality applications to four year colleges and learn how to flourish in a college environment. Though the Cap and Gown Ball marks the end of high school for College Bound’s first group of seniors, it will not mean the end of their involvement. “These students have worked so hard to make it to college, and we know how important it is for them to graduate from college. They’re stuck with us until they have that diploma.” Lisa Orden Zarin told me. College Bound’s mission is to give promising high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds the academic capacity, social support and life skills necessary to apply, matriculate, and succeed in four-year colleges.