Abe Louise Young is the Education and Training Director for Texas CASA. She began her work with Texas CASA as a consultant and was eventually hired on to her current position. She is from New Orleans and a graduate of Smith College in Massachusetts. She received her MFA in Writing from The University of Texas at Austin.
Tell us about your background and your previous work experience.
Prior to joining CASA full time one year ago, I was a consultant doing storytelling for social change work, as well as writing curricula for national, state and local nonprofit organizations. I worked with groups as diverse as the national youth voice nonprofit What Kids Can Do, the prisoner advocacy group Texas Jail Project, and the arts nonprofit Prizer Arts & Letters, where I was co-director. I served for several years on the prevention team at Texas Council on Family Violence, promoting the vision that it is possible to end interpersonal violence and engaging youth with education to spread this message with art and multimedia.
I have a parallel career as a creative writer and human rights journalist. I publish poetry and essays regularly and moonlight as a writing workshop teacher, which keeps me busy and inspired.
I’m highly motivated by social change and so excited at the opportunity Texas CASA has to be a lighthouse. I love to witness how individual learning moments can combine to transform a system for the better.
What brought you to Texas CASA?
CASA was my wonderful client when I was a consultant! I had written a book called Queer Youth Advice for Educators: How to Respect and Protect Your LGBTQ Students, and I think that was what led CASA to reach out to me. After that, it was a slow and irresistible movement towards wrapping up my consulting practice and working here!
I absolutely love that CASA is about beautiful individual human relationships that are essential to the well-being of vulnerable children. CASA is on the cutting edge of leading an evolution to a more human-centered child welfare system that honors the dignity of all people involved.
Tell us a little bit about your role here as Education & Training Director.
In the past year, my team and I created a Texas-specific adaptation of the Volunteer Pre-Service Curriculum, which every volunteer who comes to join CASA goes through. We specifically focused on increasing attention to family engagement and cultural competence issues throughout the curriculum. My team is also working to make our online learning center a world-class library of resources and opportunities to increase people’s soft and hard skills. We’re bringing exciting, new e-learning options to the network. We’re aiming to take complex topics and break them down and contextualize them in a way that they are approachable by anyone.
I’ll also be designing a guide and toolkit for the network to use to increase understanding of the need for us all to move forward in our understanding of disproportionality and how every person can change disproportionality.
What is your favorite thing about working at Texas CASA?
There are three babies in our office right now, which means coming to work is a form of heaven.
Tell us more about the future of your work.
Right now there’s the exciting opportunity to visualize what the direction in education here is, from the ground up. I’m looking forward to having more communication and relationships within the network, so that we can listen deeply to what people are saying about what they want, and then work hand in hand to create the things that they’ve identified are going to be the most useful.
What does CASA mean to you?
CASA means the amazing dedication of regular people to supporting those kids and teens who are in one of the most difficult life situations any person could ever face. CASA means people taking responsibility for affecting change in our society as a whole, starting from protecting the most vulnerable, one day at a time. It also means a really super friendly and energetic network of almost 13,000 people in Texas, if we combine staff and volunteers. That’s a lot of friends to make!