BGSU Honors Program named ‘Champion of Children’

BOWLING GREEN, O.—Students in the BGSU Honors Program are truly learning that child abuse can happen in the most unexpected places. To help these children, they are lending a hand to make school and the holidays a little more comfortable and exciting.

On April 18, Honors will be presented the Champion of Children Award for its long-term contributions to the Wood County Court-Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian ad litem (CASA/GAL) program through its participation in the Angel Tree and Backpack Partners efforts.

The Friends of Wood County CASA gives the award annually to recognize the contributions of an outstanding individual who volunteers on behalf of children who are abused, neglected or dependent. This is the first year the award will be given to a group rather than an individual.

“The BGSU Honors Program was selected this year because of their incredible support of the Wood County CASA program and recognizing the need for helping these children,” CASA/GAL Director Carol Fox said. Another reason was the program’s sustainability, she added. “It’s been passed on from one student to the next to keep it propelled, and that’s what’s so exciting.”

In 2006, the backpack program was established to provide children in the CASA program with backpacks and school supplies. The program has provided supplies to 65 children for the past few years, Jodi Devine, associate director of the Honors Program, said.

“We go out and help our students understand what CASA is and the children they’re serving,” Devine said. “A lot of our students have trouble believing that abuse and neglect exist [in Wood County]. Part of what we’re trying to do is help them recognize that abuse and neglect happens everywhere.”

Though the Honors students are the driving force behind the project, it wouldn’t happen without additional support from other BGSU organizations and the community, Devine said. WBGU-TV, the University Libraries, Alpha Phi Omega, the Arts Village and Brownie Troop 1031 are among those who participate.

The Angel Tree program was established five years ago to support children in the CASA/GAL program during the holidays. Honors students, faculty and staff provide children with books, gloves, hats and toys.

“It provides [members] with an opportunity to make a difference in a very small way, but in a significant way, too,” Devine said.

Though BGSU students and contributors are unable to personally meet with the CASA children due to privacy restrictions, both Devine and Fox say the program has a positive effect on the students and the children.

“These children are able to go into school with majority of the essentials that they need,” Fox said. “The kids are very excited and pleased to walk into school with their supplies and a brand new backpack.”

CASA has been able to expand the two programs through Honors’ involvement, Fox said. “It’s really grown because of the awareness the University has created. The Honors Program actually connected and made this a larger support effort. They’re very deserving of the award this year.”

For more information or to contribute to the programs, contact Jodi Devine at 419-372-8501 or jdevine@bgsu.edu.

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(Posted April 15, 2011 )