Spotlight on Dolores Padilla: Making the Most of Your Passions After Retirement

Dolores Padilla is a ten-year member of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Miami and an active volunteer with the Florida Guardian ad Litem program.
dolored padilla olli spotlight

Dolores Padilla is walking the walk. As someone who built a career in accounting and regulatory matters, she is applying that experience into benevolent pastimes in retirement. A member of OLLI at the University of Miami for over ten years, Dolores has explored many classes in Founders Hall, ranging from French language to chemistry to literature. Her favorite remains constitutional law – one she has taken more than once and is currently enrolled in remotely. The professor, she says, "teaches a very interesting class and the participants are tremendous. He brings a lot of guests, and now, actually, it’s easier for him to bring guests because of Zoom."

Coupled with this passion for law is a penchant for justice. Dolores has been a volunteer child advocate with the Florida Guardian ad Litem program for the last decade. Commonly known in other parts of the country as CASA, which stands for “court-appointed special advocate”, these volunteers work with children who have experienced abuse or neglect.

She credits her former career as an IRS agent with giving her the coordination and organizational skills necessary to be successful as a volunteer advocate. As an advocate, she helps children navigate the legal and social services system and is an important source of stability during a tumultuous time. She is often asked about the emotional effect of her position and notes that the ability to compartmentalize is key to longevity in this role.

“You have to help the kids. Period. That is your goal,” says Dolores. Her approach is to “be helpful to everybody. You cannot get territorial.” Moreover, she finds that longtime volunteers are compassionate people who withhold judgement of the adults involved in each situation.

“You have to be compassionate, and you have to leave your criticism of the parents at home. You cannot judge these people, meaning the way they dress or the way they talk or the way they act. You don’t know what happened to [them],” she says.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Miami and the Florida Guardian ad Litem program are embarking on an exciting new partnership to spread awareness of each program and encourage members of each organization to explore the other. Dolores has been an active proponent of how volunteer advocates and OLLI members are a great source of potential interest for each organization. The fact that many OLLI members are retired and have both the time and job skills to successfully engage with Florida Guardian ad Litem is what sparked the idea for her. “They are bringing a lot of experience” to the table from their careers and professional lives, she notes.

“I love both programs,” says Dolores, and she plans to stay passionately involved even though she has recently moved to New York during the pandemic. OLLI’s commitment to offering virtual Zoom classes, in addition to in-person and hybrid models, makes it possible for her to stay connected to her alma mater and the courses she loves.

To learn more about OLLI at the University of Miami, please visit our homepage. If you are interested in joining the Florida Guardian ad Litem program as a volunteer advocate, please click here.