Gordon Elkins

Angel Lopez always knew that he would be the first person in his family ever to graduate from high school. He just did not know where or when.

By the time he was 15, Angel had lived in 14 foster homes. Frequent—and sometimes sudden—moves meant frequent changes in school districts. Compounding the problem, Angel was often the victim of schoolyard bullies harassing him about his sexual orientation.

When Angel met CASA volunteer Gordon Elkins three years ago, he was getting Ds and Fs in every subject, and living in a foster home that did not approve of his being gay. In the beginning, Angel responded to Gordon the same way he responded to everyone: with silence.

“I could see that Angel did not trust me, did not trust anyone. And he certainly did not feel comfortable with his LGBT identity,” says Gordon, who also identifies as LGBT. “In response, I decided to be as outrageous as I could, hoping that if I was in-your-face out to him, it would make Angel feel more comfortable with his own identity.”

Gordon’s strategy worked. One month after becoming Angel’s advocate, Gordon received a call from Angel’s social worker, excitedly asking: What have you done to Angel? We just had our first conversation ever!

Angel’s progress did not stop there. After three more moves, Gordon helped facilitate Angel’s placement into a stable, accepting foster home and transfer into a continuing education high school, with smaller class sizes that offered a credit recovery program. Angel felt he fit in there and was accepted just for whom he was and soon made many friends there. 

On May 31, Angel graduated from Rancho Vista High School in Temecula, CA. He is planning to attend Mount San Jacinto College in August. 

“If I had not met Gordon, I would not be as comfortable and confident as I am. Knowing him has enabled me to be myself, to not care about what other people think about me. Having his support has taken me where I am today.”