Sarah Elm

Volunteering helps Sarah decide on career

Sarah knew she wanted a career where she could help and serve people, but she didn’t know which degree was best. After realizing the opportunities Iowa State offers, she decided to enroll as an undecided student.

“I attended the career fair as well as took the career test,” she said. “But it wasn’t until I had some volunteer and job shadowing experience that I really felt this (child, adult and family services) is where I should be.”

Sarah found volunteer opportunities after talking with her adviser, who recommended Sarah look into becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate. She reached out to the head of the department in Story County and began the process to becoming a CASA.

Sarah went through a long and extensive training process. She spent two, full, eight-hour days learning about what a CASA does and how to do the job responsibly. She learned that her job was to observe the children and give her recommendation about where the child should live after.

Sarah’s experience with a variety of cases taught her something very important, she didn’t want to be a CASA forever. She loved being around the kids and helping. However, she wanted to be more involved rather than just an observer.

“I wish I could get closer to the family,” she said. “They are used to social workers, so I tried to remind them I’m here to help, not take their child away. It was hard because I would just start getting to know them, and then I’d have to leave.”

Although she didn’t find a desire for this career, Sarah did learn she wanted to help families through counseling and declared a double major in child, adult, and family services and psychology.

“You don’t do just one thing,” she said. “As a counselor, you’re a voice for a kid, like you are as a CASA, only you get to talk about a variety of things.”