Oliver James - Guardian ad Litem Volunteer, UWF Student

Oliver James - Guardian ad Litem Volunteer, UWF Student

Oliver James

Volunteer Child Advocate, Escambia Office

While walking through the UWF campus, Oliver ran into Joan Irby (our Volunteer Recruiter) who had gotten lost on her way to a GAL presentation with a fraternity on campus. As Oliver was walking her to the room, Joan invited him to consider volunteering. He took her up on that and one year later, I had the opportunity to sit down with Oliver on the UWF campus.

Why did he decide to volunteer?

Oliver is pursuing his master’s degree in criminal justice. At the time he was asked to volunteer, an intern opportunity had just fallen through and he realized that working with the dependency court system would be a great way to get experience. When he was presented with the opportunity to work with a teenager, Oliver hesitated because of his age. But he has discovered that being so close in age (less than 10 years) has enabled him and his teen boy to have a deeper shared understanding.

What is one of his most profound experiences in being a volunteer?

When Oliver realized that his teen fully trusted him. What a gift and an important responsibility.

What advice would he give a new younger advocate?

Consistency is essential. The first few visits will probably feel procedural. It takes time for a child or teen to feel safe enough to open up. But when you show you are committed and that you truly care, trust and friendship will blossom.

Is volunteering a good idea for a UWF student if they are here just temporarily? YES! We simply ask for a 12-18 month commitment, perfect for a student’s time here. Oliver is a perfect example of this as he will be leaving the area in May after he graduates. He plans to stay in touch with his teen via text and hopes to see him when he comes back to visit.