Exemplary Advocacy Recognized

Text reads "Exemplary Advocacy Recognized" and includes a photo of Julie Hardee, 2020 Advocate of the Year, and Teresa Siegel, 2021 Advocate of the Year

Exemplary Advocacy Recognized

What makes someone exemplary?  It can be difficult to describe.  Exemplary is defined as serving as a desirable model; representing the best of its kind.  We are certainly blessed at Pulaski County CASA to have many, many advocates who prioritize the best interests of children who are in the child welfare system because they have been abused or neglected.  Advocates that tirelessly advocate for the best interests of those children.  Without a doubt, we can say that Julie Hardee and Teresa Siegel are the best of their kind! 

We had the honor to recognized both ladies at our Light of Hope breakfast on October 12, 2021.  Julie Hardee was chosen as the 2020 Advocate of the Year but was recognized at this year’s event because, well, 2020.  Teresa Siegel was chosen as the 2021 Advocate of the Year and recognized this year. 

Julie Hardee grew up in Magnet Cove.  She studied fine art and graphic design at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia.  She met her husband there and loved being in Delta Zeta sorority.  For several years they lived in North Carolina and then New York City while her husband did his training to specialize in radiation oncology.  Julie was able to work for the Fashion Stylist from “Sex and the City” while in New York and then became a fit-model at a knitwear company.  Most of her career she worked as a graphic designer or in the arts.

Julie has a busy life.  She has one young son who is very outgoing.  She enjoys playing tennis as a hobby and volunteering as a docent at the Clinton Presidential Center.  She loves working their special events and leading school tours when health and safety precautions allow.

Julie has been a CASA volunteer for five years.  She says she was humbled when she learned about the program and didn’t know if she had the guts to be a CASA.  She thought about it for over a year before she applied and went through training.  She enjoys helping kids who come from all different backgrounds.  She has found that sometimes just asking one simple question can greatly improve a child’s quality of life.  Julie has served on 8 cases since becoming a CASA including multiple cases in the Zero to Three program.  She finds it thrilling to see a baby in the Zero to Three program hit their milestones and laugh and smile at her.

In addition to being a CASA, Julie has held multiple personal fundraisers to support the work of Pulaski County CASA and other non-profit organizations.  Since the pandemic began, Julie has sewn and donated hundreds of face masks to Children’s Hospital, children’s shelters, Little Free Pantries, and teachers.

When asked to share about Julie, one of Julie’s CASA Supervisors, Celeste Davis said, “Julie has been an advocate since 2016. Since that time, she has advocated in 8 cases for 11 different children.  Julie has a great heart for teen girls and advocates for their right to a normal teen life while they navigate their foster care journey. While Julie enjoys working with teens, she will also split her time of advocacy for children involved in Zero to Three Safe Babies Court Team cases. Julie forms great bonds with the families and foster parents to ensure that all the needs of the children are being met. When Julie isn’t advocating for children and families, she’s working on some other philanthropic project, like sewing masks and donating them to hospitals or other organizations. She also spends time raising money for organizations, like CASA, by giving her prized masks for any donation amount donated to a charity close to her heart.”

As a wife, mother, grandmother, volunteer, and recent retiree, Teresa Siegel has long been committed to service in Central Arkansas. She has been married to husband, Larry, for 44 years and they have lived in Little Rock all but two of those years. Born in Nashville, Tennessee, reared in Memphis, and a Freed-Hardeman graduate, she still considers herself a “Tennessee” girl in her heart.  She is “Mom” to sons Brandon and Blaine, “Teresa” to daughters-in-law Hannah and Rachel, and “Mimi” to four grandchildren – Will, Bennett, Claire, and Emma.

Teresa spent much of her adult life devotedly rearing their sons, supporting her football and track coaching husband, and serving her church. When their sons reached school-age, she began work as a bookkeeper at Little Rock Central High School and continued there for 17 years. The next 10 years she worked as a special education/administrative assistant for eStem Public Charter School. When she officially retired, she was given wonderful advice by dear friends who told her, “Being retired doesn’t mean sitting on the beach reading a book.” So, she began to volunteer in earnest. She has loved being a CASA for three years. Most of her advocacy has been for children placed on the autism spectrum, so she has become known as the “autism advocate.” Believing these special needs children must have a consistent person in their lives to fill in the gaps when caseworkers, foster homes, teachers, therapists, and attorneys are constantly changing…it motivates Teresa to be a strong voice for them.

You will still find her occasionally reading a book on the beach, joining in a weekly Bible study, traveling with her husband, and supporting the many activities of their grandchildren, but volunteering is a key focus in her life.

Teresa lost her mom this past February. But two things her mom firmly instilled in her is to think of others and be like the “Little Engine that Could” constantly saying, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Living that advice gives her the incentive and encouragement to continue being a voice for children and changing their stories for good.

Coincidently, Celeste Davis has also supervised Teresa and shared, “Teresa has been an advocate since 2019.  She has (probably unintentionally) found her niche as an extremely strong advocate for autistic children. Teresa has a special heart for children with special needs and is fierce about making sure that they get all the special services that they are entitled to. She works very well with the families, works to assist the parents, and makes great connections with the children. She was recently quoted in an Opinion from the Arkansas Supreme Court that affirmed a termination of parental rights, where Teresa advocated tirelessly to ensure that safety of an autistic child was protected and all of his best interests were met, in his home life as well as in the classroom. Though the end result was not what was originally hoped for (and Teresa will tell you that there aren’t any winners in the situation), her advocacy was solely for the best interest of the child long term.” 

It’s easy to see that both of these Court Appointed Special Advocates keep volunteering for children in foster care, being a voice for their best interests, and serving others at the forefront of their lives.  They are truly exemplary, and we are honored that they are part of the Pulaski County CASA organization.

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