Child Advocates of Silicon Valley

Judge Schwarz: Top Ten Pieces of Advice

Friday, Jul 7, 2017

A few weeks ago, Judge Shawna Schwarz stood up at our annual Teen Event to share her happiness and pride that 95% of the foster youth we serve completed their high school requirements this year. We asked her to share her advice with the group and since the teens appreciated hearing it, she gave us permission to share it on our blog. Below are her notes for the speech, we hope you find them as inspiring as we do.









10) Check your oil.

  • Routine maintenance matters
  • Go to the dentist – wear your retainer – floss your teeth
  • So much easier (and cheaper) to deal with a problem when it is small, as opposed to waiting for it to snowball. The longer you wait to take care of a problem, the bigger it will become.
  • Example: no regular dental care, end up with root canal...









9) Get therapy now!

  • It’s expensive! Get it while somebody else is paying for it.
  • You are in the dependency system, which means something went wrong in your family of origin. Pars are dead, or in prison, or using drugs, or have MH issues, or turned their backs on you. (I’m not casting blame....). But families of origin are where we are supposed to learn life skills that we then take out into the world. Not being with your families, you may have missed some of that stuff. If you don’t want to repeat the problems of your families/parents, get support from a counselor/therapist
  • “How does that make you feel?” – Annoying question, per kids.
  • My therapist friend sent me a meme I want to share with you: “Sometimes just to annoy my therapist, I ask her, ‘So how does my lack of progress make YOU feel?’”









8) Say please and thank you.

  • Have good manners. As you go out into the world, there is competition – for jobs, for attention, Benefits:
    • Get noticed by employers. Distinguish yourself. Lead to raises, promotions, advancement.
    • Treating others with respect makes them want to be nice back to you.
  • Having good manners gives you confidence. Doing saying right thing, feel comfortable in many situations.









7) Be a good employee.

  • Show up on time. Work hard. Be dependable and reliable. Be the kind of employee that the boss can count on.
  • Doesn’t matter if you are scrubbing floors, washing cars or working in an office.
  • You can learn how to do the job – employers can teach that. They cannot teach a good work ethic.
  • Having a good work ethic will lead to success.
  • Example: youth has been working at McDonalds for three months, boss noticed her great work ethic. They picked her out for management. Now is manager at the store where she was hired, they are talking to her about managing her own store – she would have to go to Hamburger University.









6) Learn how to juggle.

  • Not balls, or eggs or whatever....
  • Juggle responsibilities -- all the things you have to do in your life. Work, school, relationships.
  • Life doesn’t let you focus on one thing at a time.
  • You will never be less busy than you are now – not if you want to be successful and make a nice life for yourself.
  • By the way, studies show that staying busy, working hard toward ambitious goals – leads to happiness. Sitting on the couch doing nothing does not lead to happiness.
  • Staying busy as you work toward your goals – gives feeling of accomplishment.









5) Be careful who you procreate with....

  • Remember, both parents have rights to a child – even if you decide you don’t like him anymore.
  • You will be stuck with that child’s other parent until that child is 18 years old – and beyond!
  • Is he kind? Does he support you in your dreams and goals? Does he have dreams and goals? Is she a bad influence, trying to get you to do stuff you know is wrong? Does she respect you and treat you kindly?
  • After you have a child with someone, you will have to co-parent with that person – even if your relationship breaks up.
  • Family Court is full of people who loved each other for a minute and now are fighting over parenting issues.
  • Be choosy.









4) Learn forgiveness.

  • “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” (lots of variations to this quote; not clear where quote originated, who said it first)
  • Back to counseling/therapy – learn to do this.
  • It is good for your health.
  • Takes a lot of energy to hold on to anger. When you hold onto it, it controls you.
  • Example: case where a youth HATES his father. Cannot be in the room with him. Think of this poor 11 year old walking around with so much hate, it’s like a huge weight on his shoulders.









3) Have integrity.

  • What is integrity? Definition: quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.
  • Integrity is doing the right thing. Even when no one is watching.
  • Example: last week, got too much change back – from Safeway. Could have easily walked out of there with extra $10. Easy to justify. Safeway would never know. That is a drop in the bucket of the money they bring in.
  • Why say something? Because I have to look myself in the mirror every morning.
  • Encourage you: Look in the mirror, ask yourself, “What kind of person do I want to be?”
  • Other quote: “Live in such a way that if someone spoke badly about you, no one would believe it.” (not clear who spoke these words first....)









2) Surround yourself with people you want to be like.

  • Context matters. What does this mean?
  • It means we do what is easy, what is around us.
  • If we are hanging out with people who don’t care about school, we won’t care about school.
  • Research shows that one of the best ways to lose weight and get healthy is to hang around people who eat healthy and live healthy lives.
  • Look around you. Who do you want to be like? Who is living a life that you might like for yourself? Find those people and become friends, hang out.
  • When you go to college, make friends with other college students!
  • Surround yourself with people who want to be successful, who care about their futures.
  • Quote: “A great future does not require a great past.” (William Chapman) But deal with your past so it doesn’t own you, doesn’t define you. (see #2, get counseling now!)
  • You create your future. You don’t have to be defined by being in foster care.









1) Be kind to one another.

  • It doesn’t cost anything to be kind.
  • First of all, you never know what kind of pain somebody is carrying around. Your kindness can matter, can make a difference.
  • Life is hard. You know that.
  • And it doesn’t get easier as you get older. You have more responsibilities, more things to take care of (see # 6, learn to juggle). Life is not easy.
  • “Life will knock you down. It’s your decision whether to stand back up.” (Karate Kid II, Mr. Han)
  • Being around others who are kind makes it easier to stand back up.
  • Kindness can lead to happiness. One kind deed makes you feel happier, and the happier you feel, the more likely you are to do another kind deed.

What else?
Get educated. Give yourself choices. Create your future. Don’t be defined by your past.

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