Get to Know the CASA Team: Jenny Stotts
Updated: Feb 18
Jenny Stotts has served as the Executive Director of the Athens CASA/GAL Program since 2013.
Describe your educational and/or professional background.
I am a social worker! Before coming to CASA, I worked at children services as an intake caseworker. During that job, I served as a forensic interviewer in child sexual abuse cases. I also worked in a domestic violence shelter in the past and in child welfare education at Ohio University. My undergraduate studies were in social work, psychology and Spanish. I didn't earn a degree in it, but I also spent A LOT of time studying music, specifically classic voice (opera - yay!). In graduate school, I studied strategic social sciences and government relations, focusing on applied ethics. I have also completed coursework and certificates in executive leadership. But really, I'll never stop learning!
What brought you to work for CASA?
I had been working at children services for a number of years and was really happy doing that work. I was actually approached by Judge Stewart and Tara Huffman advising me of the CASA director opening and I remember responding, "well if I think of anyone, I'll pass it along" before it dawned on me that I was the person they had in mind. It was really hard for me to leave children services, especially because I really loved forensic interviewing, but it was the best decision ever to join the team at Athens Co. Juvenile Court and CASA. Working at CASA and with all of these amazing people has been an incredibly special experience.
What is your favorite CASA memory?
My very first day. I had a court hearing that day - which I felt confident about because I had spent so much time in court for my last job - but after court, I didn't really know what to do or where to start. So, I sat at my new desk and typed into google, "How to be an Executive Director." I can say this now because I'm no longer embarrassed that I did that. It was brand new and I came to the job with no administrative experience. My googling that day led to a list of things I knew and things I needed to learn. The second list always seems to be growing faster than the first one, but it has helped me remain focused on my professional development priorities. I'll never forget how I felt on that first day - the perfect mix of excited and naive.
Any conference I've gotten to attend with coworkers and CASA volunteers also makes the top of the list. We've had so much fun laughing over dinner or dancing during awards galas. I have never laughed as hard as I did when we negotiated our way into a very exclusive revolving tower restaurant at a conference. We ate the best snacks and laughed until we cried.
But, really, I have so many amazing CASA memories!
Why is CASA important?
CASA is the only party involved in abuse, neglect and dependency cases whose only responsibility is to the child's best interest. While everyone involved wants what is best for the children, there's no escaping the powers of emotions or agency mandates or bureaucracy. For CASAs, that is notably and uniquely absent. As someone who has experienced the child welfare system from about 360 degrees, I don't want to think about a system that doesn't include CASA.
How do you wind down? Any self-care tips?
I really depend on my close friends and my family for support, so any time spent with loved ones is a great strategy for me. I love being outside and staying active. I also use a strategy where I acknowledge, name and unpack any feeling I'm having. Sometimes, my work stirs up the dust on my own personal history, so I consider the management of this to be more than just self-care, but a part of my professional responsibilities.
I also think it's important that we take care of our mental health in the same way we take care of our physical health. Relying on professionals like therapists and counselors is a great strategy and I recommend it for everyone.
What do you do outside of work?
I am an adventurer. My family loves camping. We go beach camping in South Carolina every chance we get. I love riding horses, kayaking, hiking and just about anything out in the wild. I have an amazing group of girlfriends and I love to hang out with them whenever I can. I also love to read and can lose hours of time in books. My favorite book is "The Great Gatsby." I read it at least 4 times each year and my (not so) secret wish is to figure out a way to host a Gatsby Gala to benefit charity.
I also volunteer with Rotary, which is incredibly important to me (Athens Sunrise Rotary - check it out and join us!). In addition to that, I volunteer with the Make-A-Wish Foundation (as a Wish Granter) and the Child Conservation League, which hosts the Starlight Ball each year.
What is one thing people may not know about you?
I am a certified yoga teacher. I've been practicing yoga for over 15 years and after attending a silent yoga retreat a few years ago with lots of time for reflection, I was inspired to complete the 200 hours of YTT to learn more about the history and practice of yoga. Before that, a lot of my practice had focused on asana (or the physical posing), but I really wanted to learn about and honor the culture and history of the people who had developed and shared the practice. It was really enlightening and made me a better person. It also challenged my perspective in a really productive way.
What is something interesting you learned recently?
My 2021 goal is to get myself closer to becoming a beekeeper. So, I've spent a lot of time reading about bees and how we can make a difference through very basic conservation efforts. There were so many little changes I could make in my life to be more bee friendly, such as paying extra attention to the flowers I plant. I've also started chatting with bee experts to deepen my knowledge and prepare me for taking the next step. Bee culture is so cool!
Like my shirt? You can buy one at https://www.bonfire.com/just-love-127/ and the proceeds support the Friends of Athens CASA.