A young woman from Cedarville praised the work of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Crawford County and her former advocate on Nov. 13.

The accolades came during CASA’s volunteer/board appreciation dinner at the Crawford County Adult Education Center.

Guest speaker Anna Rice, 20, said her advocate, Phyllis Kerby, helped her through some very troublesome times.

“In the middle of my teenage years, the only one who I could really trust with anything was my CASA advocate,” Rice said. “Mrs. Kerby was the one who believed in me when no one else did.”

Rice, a sophomore at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith majoring in social work, said Kerby went above and beyond for her.

“She drove the distance to make sure that I was alright in my home and to check how my school was going,” she said. “She interacted with my grandparents who meant a great deal to me. She formed lasting memories and built strong friendships.”

Kerby was recently honored as a Court Appointed Special Advocate’s Face of Arkansas.

Rice said her life was turned upside down in 2012 when she became a ward of the state.

“While in custody I was very alone,” Rice said. “I was not able to associate with friends or family to help comfort me through. My life was very unstable and I went through several case workers barely knowing most them.”

She recalls sitting in the waiting area of the courthouse by herself “and the stranger that was stating my case.”

“I did not know her and I did not trust her,” Rice said. “I was scared to even talk to her. Then during one court date I was appointed a special advocate. Little did I know that I was going to grow close to her as well my newest case worker. From then on out I always had someone to sit by while waiting for my case to come up in the courtroom. And while in the courtroom when I felt afraid I knew I could look for her in the stands and she would be there supporting me through it all.”

Rice also told of a court appearance when some of her closest family members testified against her.

“I sat there and cried while he could not bare to even acknowledge my existence,” She said. “He was the person who I thought would always be there to support me but was there to tell the judge that I was a liar. I had been betrayed by the one person I looked up to.”

She said it was a heartbreaking day for her but also an eye opener.

“On that day Mrs. Kerby was the only one there to support me,” Rice said. “She continuously wiped my tears and told me it would all be okay.”

Rice’s bond with Kerby continued to grow.

“She could somehow sense when I was truly unhappy,” Rice said. “While in one home, I started to get into some trouble after being there a couple of months. My grades had start slipping and I was always getting into arguments with the parents. I had even gotten into a fight with one of the girls who I am friends with today.”

When Kerby would drive out to see Rice, she would tell her she was doing great.

“But she knew otherwise,” Rice said. “The only real reason I stayed as long as I did was because of the friends I made at school. I was afraid to start over and make knew ones. Then after a huge argument that seem like it went on for days, I decided it was time. I told Mrs. Kerby and my caseworker about the problems and I was soon relocated back to a shelter which I really didn’t mind because everyone there was going through a similar situation so they didn’t judge me.”

Rice sees Kerby as a courageous, respected and compassionate person who is a perfect representation of what a CASA is.

“She was the part of my journey that shaped me into the person I am today,” Rice said. “I am truly thankful for being appointed a CASA for all the love and support that you have shared with me.”