Jerima King has never been one to hesitate when it comes to helping others.
She knows that being fluent in both English and Spanish make her valuable to some of Southern Colorado’s most vulnerable citizens, and she doesn’t think twice before jumping in.
“I think it was the way my parents raised us,” the 59-year-old Southern Colorado activist recalls about her childhood in Panama. “I was a junior Red Cross volunteer when there was a huge fire in Panama City. There was a call for clothing, shoes, and we would go to sort things by sizes.”
King had been familiar with CASA for quite some time, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2017 after retiring from her position as interpreter at the Municipal Courthouse, that she was ready to take on the challenge.
Because so few CASAs come with Spanish-speaking abilities, CASA of the Pikes Peak Region has kept Jeri plenty busy since she was sworn in as a Court Appointed Special Advocate.
“We can focus on the kids whereas the Guardian ad Litem and the case workers have a lot of other cases,” Jeri explains about how important her work is. “Our main purpose is to not let these kids fall through the cracks.”
One child who Jeri didn’t let fall through the cracks was Diego – a two-year-old boy who was removed from his drug-abusing mother after multiple charges were filed against her. Jeri was able to interpret for the mother’s former boyfriend who had always been a constant caregiver and role model in Diego’s life.
“I could help him when he had a question because of the language barrier, like when it came to registering Diego for preschool,” Jeri said.
She also interpreted for the biological father, and worked with the caseworker, GAL, and daycare provider to make recommendations that ensured Diego would be placed in a safe and loving home. Thanks to Jeri’s work, Diego is now thriving in the home of his caregiver as a happy and active three-year-old.
When asked what she would tell a new CASA, Jeri replied “I would tell them the toughest part is already behind them because the training is so extensive.”
Jeri says that the training helped her learn how to set boundaries. Now, instead of feeling responsible for others, she knows that the best way to help is to direct people to the right resources and services.
In addition to her work as a CASA, Jeri is a Spanish tutor/interpreter and advocates for the homeless with Blackbird Outreach.
One thing’s for sure: The world could use more Jeri Kings. Learn how YOU can get involved today.