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Spirit Awards winner: Brooke Scheurich

Brooke Scheurich is a court-appointed special advocate for Porter County. She advocates for youth who enter the juvenile court system as a result of abuse or neglect.

Brooke Scheurich, Valparaiso

Occupation: Full-time Valparaiso University law student; part-time law intern with the Marshall County Prosecutor’s Office

Where/how she volunteers: Scheurich is a court-appointed special advocate for Porter County. A CASA is trained to advocate for the best interests of children who come into the court system as a result of abuse or neglect. While attorneys are appointed to represent parents, the CASA is appointed to speak up solely on behalf of the child.

Why she volunteers there: Scheurich had wanted to be a CASA ever since college, but she had to wait until she reached the required minimum age of 21. During her undergraduate years, she was involved with Purdue University’s Treatment and Research Clinic, which works with children suffering from abuse or cognitive issues. As a psychology major, she said, “I really enjoyed it.” Scheurich feels “passionate” about youth work. “I really like working with children and children with conflicts in their life, and helping them:”

Particular skills used/gained: These include people skills, problem solving, patience and sometimes a really thick skin. “Kids are scared, and they don’t open up,” Scheurich said. “You need to get into a comfortable rapport with the child.”

How long has she volunteered there: Scheurich has been with CASA since February 2017.

Any other volunteering, past or present: Through Valparaiso University, Scheurich had been a judge for Teen Court in Portage. In high school, as part of psychology class, she worked with special-needs children.

Insights gained from volunteering: “I’ve learned a lot,” Scheurich said. “I always knew there were children who needed a voice. I did not know how crucial it is (to have someone as their voice).”

Scheurich has listened to children when no one else would, driving more than two hours to be with them. She stays in constant contact with foster parents, teachers and therapists involved in the case. She does this while balancing law school and work.

Scheurich once received a call that a child had been taken to an emergency room. She drove to the medical center and stayed with the youth for eight hours, comforting and advocating for the child. Finally home at 1:30 a.m., Scheurich said she was “extremely overwhelmed” by what had happened, adding, “I was very glad I was a CASA for him. It makes you think, he had someone to advocate for him.”

Advice to others who might volunteer: “Look at the whole picture,” Scheurich said. “Certain things, you have to search below the surface. Some things are really deep-rooted and you have to uncover them.”