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School social worker: How I got my job and where I'm going

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As a student in elementary, I I was smart, but I spoke a lot. I had a teacher who called me motor mouth. And, I think my behavior affected my grades a lot. Because I would always do my work and I didn't understand how I would still get Fs. In middle school, I started sixth grade and got my first D and thought I should celebrate because I got a D instead of an F. And, there was this program in middle school called Score. It was a peer mediation program. And my cousin and her friends were already in this program. And what the program did was have students mediate other student's problems. So, there was this instructor for that program. A mentor for that program who had a great relationship with these students. And I so badly wanted to be a part of this peer mediation program and asked her if I could be a part of it. And she said, "Sure, but you have to bring your grades up." So that was sort of the beginning of my turnaround. So, from seventh grade on I started improving in school, doing everything, but I would always get that one C in math. Math is just not my subject. And, then I came to high school and this very same building, (mumbling) I graduated from Boston public schools. From this school. And, I remember sitting in my ninth grade class, I'm in high school and one day I thought I was cool. He had an assignment on the board and I said, "I'm not doing it." And, he said, "Well, I still get paid at the end of the day "so that's your loss." And I thought about that and I said, you know what? He's right. Shortly, I got back to work. And, also being in high school I realized that peers influence you more. And they have a lot to say in their perception of you. So, I'm not one for drama. But you would hear people often talk about you and everything, so I tried to disassociate myself from all of that and said, you know, I'm going to worry about myself. I'll have friends, I'll see them at lunch. I'll see them after school. But, I'm here for myself because no one else is going to help me. So I was very fortunate that I learned that early on. As a result, I became an honor roll student. I became more involved. I joined the student council. I joined the keyboarding club, the soccer team, the softball team. Becoming presidents and captains in all of these organizations. And, as I was boosting my self-confidence I felt a lot better about myself and I joined the mayor's youth council. Which is a youth council that has a political agenda or support different causes in the city of Boston, to support other youth. We try to bring community resources together for other youth. And, as a part of the mayor's youth council I got exposed to different people from different schools and just realized that there was so much opportunity out there for me. While I was an undergrad at Boston College I was studying education and human development. And, I sort of changed a few times, political science, sociology. I couldn't really figure it out. And towards the end of my sophomore year I discovered that there was a five year program which I can get my masters in social work within five years and I would start as a junior taking master level courses. I was studying social work with clinical focus and a global concentration. So part of my global concentration I got to go to London to research do research on repeat offenders to figure out why they were they kept offending over and over again. From there, I finished in 2008 with my masters. Only five years after I started undergrad. So when I graduated from college I went to work with the mayor. For his department of neighborhood services. This was a result of me having a relationship with him through all the years since I had joined his youth council. So, I became the liaison to the Mid Dorchester section of Boston. And the Cape Verdon community liaison. Because I am a Cape Verdon. While in this role I started to attend lots of vigils for young men who were being murdered in the community. Over and over again, I would be at these vigils with the mayor. We would be walking peace walks. And, I myself, at that point, had lost two of my three cousins to violence. So, what I recognized as a common theme was that a lot of the young men who were being murdered had been high school dropouts. And, I sort of started thinking like, I need to get back to where I first started. And I remember going into graduating high school I thought I wanted to be an elementary school teacher. And at this point I'm like, I need to become a high school teacher because they're dropping out in high school. And that's where I started investigating Teach For America, joined Teach For America and became a teacher. I taught full-time for three years and, after the three years a role opened up where I could become the school social worker. And, I knew that was also a passion of mine and I had already had the teaching under my belt for three years. So I figured, you know, to be a social worker in a school that's awesome because I can sort of do both. And, that's where I am now. So I find myself very fortunate to have found a job where I can use both of my degrees to be able to work in the community that I grew up in with the students who most closely resemble me. It's powerful when you can tell students that you share some of the same experiences that they're going through. And, you seem more more as an insider than an outsider when you have that ability to make that instant connection. It's sort of an advantage. There is potential for growth in this position from a social worker you can become the student support coordinator for the school which I did for my previous school. Or you can go up to the district level which you're making decisions around student support across the district for all schools and all students. In terms of within the school building, it's limited. You're either a social worker, or a student support coordinator. And most schools don't have both, or either. So, really, your growth opportunity at most schools would be, at the district level. My long-term goal and dreams is to have an organization where inner city students can be exposed to things that are a little foreign to them. For example, ice hockey, field hockey, camping, rowing, et cetera. Additionally, I like to provide them with opportunities to engage with peer leadership and other educational initiatives. Things that contribute to their confidence, to their skillset and that will prepare them for the larger world. For anyone who is interested in the field of social work I would really suggest that they expose themselves to people and relationships as much as possible. And to really figure out the population that they like to work with. I always knew that I wanted to work with teens. So the trajectory that I followed was to embrace other teens around me. And that was by working in working or volunteering in locations that included other teens. So I worked at different teen centers. St. Peters Teen Center, which is down the street. Log School. I did things that aligned with my passion. For example, when I was 18 I was part of a group of students who started a radio station for females in the community. And, it targeted the teen population. I went to college and I continued to help teens whether it was teens who were still in high school. My little cousins who were teenagers. So I always kind of stuck to that population. And I think, over time, that's where I developed my skillset because I exposed myself so much to teenagers. Even at my job in the mayor's office though I worked with everyone I had more fun at events where I saw teens. For anyone who's just starting out in this field I would just want to tell them that it's a very rewarding job. Although some days it may not seem like it. Some days will be easy, and some days will be really tough. But at the end of the day, once you can see progress in the families and the students that you help, you'll remember why you're in that position.
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