I graduated from IUSSW with my BSW in 2016, and my MSW (concentration in Mental Health & Addictions) in 2018. At present, I’m a Program Manager for a young adult housing program in the Chicago Suburbs, where I oversee a 24 month transitional housing program to help young men who have experienced homelessness to obtain the skills and resources necessary to live independently.
I have worked in and around social services for the last ten years, working and interning with a variety of populations, including: poverty alleviation, minority public health, child welfare, adult intellectual and developmental disabilities, program development, mental health, and HIV/AIDS services.
Growing up, social work was never on my radar as a career. Instead, I had always assumed—and even began to pursue—a career in education. While working in a classroom setting, I quickly identified that the kids I worked with had greater needs than could be met in a standard 9-3pm classroom setting. It was only after social work was suggested to me by my boyfriend at the time (now, husband) who encouraged me to consider taking an Intro to Social Work class at IUPUI. I couldn’t be more grateful that I took that class…all of these years later, I can’t see myself doing anything else!
I use my social work degree every single day, both on the job and in my personal life. A degree in social work fosters your ability to think critically, consider perspectives different than your own, value individual differences, and advocate for a more just world. I directly attribute my ability to communicate, problem-solve, de-escalate, and empathize with others to my social work degree. I consider social work to be one of the most rewarding, and personally satisfying professions out there. Very few careers grant you the opportunity to walk alongside people, encourage people, and help people to recognize strengths they ever realized they had.
The majority of my social work experience has been in the field of HIV services, HIV prevention, and harm reduction. During those years, the ability to foster hope and education and compassion in individuals recently diagnosed with HIV was an incredible gift. I’m so, so grateful that I could share intimate, vulnerable moments in the lives of people who are too often marginalized or written off.
Since transitioning into the field of housing, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to guide the development of an emergency youth shelter program, which will be the first of its kind in this county. Funding has been secured by county officials, and we’re prepared to begin providing emergency shelter to some of the most vulnerable youth in our community in just a few weeks.
Words of wisdom: Challenges in this field are plentiful, but the two greatest are financial and emotional. Too often, funding for social services programs is limited or difficult to come by. As a result, the people social workers serve sometimes receive inequitable services than more advantaged or privileged populations. This limitation on funding also affects compensation for social work professionals, who can be underpaid or undercompensated for providing heavy physical and emotional labor. Emotionally, social workers are often exposed to some of the most traumatic experiences imaginable, and this secondary trauma can last well beyond work hours. Of the social workers I’ve seen burn out (myself included), emotional exhaustion and compassion fatigue are the absolutely number one reason. Being a social worker is an incredibly special gift. Don’t take a single moment of it for granted.
My favorite quote is actually a paraphrase of a more profound statement by Dr. Martin Luther King: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”