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MSW, Hispanic, Military, Women’s Shelter

November 25, 2013

I am a woman of Hispanic heritage, born in the Dominican Republic and resident in the United States since the age of 10. I speak English and Spanish. I hold a BS degree in Industrial Engineering Technology and a BA degree in Modern Languages (Spanish) with a minor in Business Management. I am the first person in my family to graduate from college and am proud to have done so and to have taken advantages of the opportunities that have been available to me.

 I have never formally studied Social Work and it may be unusual for someone with my academic and professional background to apply for this program. My interest in Social Work was initially fired by my experiences in the Army. During my service, which included time in Kosovo, I witnessed distress among soldiers arising from post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression. Two military colleagues required help whilst we served in Kosovo, both suffered bereavements of close relatives whilst far from home and suffered depression and stress as a result.  I witnessed successful interventions in these cases to provide these soldiers with ways of coping and regaining their former confidence and joy in living. It was then that I became aware of the work of specialist Social Workers dedicated to helping soldiers and their families and it occurred to me then that this was a wonderful way to spend a working life. The seed was planted.

 When I left the army, I decided that I would help others, if not professionally then as a volunteer. I resumed my career but have spent a significant amount of my spare time in volunteer activities.  I have worked in a Women’s Shelter helping in practical ways, in listening and in doing anything that was useful for the clients. I have worked in a homeless shelter providing general help to help residents. Currently I act as a volunteer with an organization that represents the interests of abused and neglected children in court. I have been trained by a non-profit organization called CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) to act as an advocate for children in the courts. The children concerned have suffered abuse or neglect and the courts seek to have them safely and permanently homed. I act as a friend to the child and as a fact-finder reporting directly to the judge.  I am required to thoroughly research the child’s background, to speak for the child in court and to assist the court and child towards a swift and appropriate conclusion.

 My voluntary work has been another, and very significant, formative experience in my life and has provided me with great satisfaction, indeed joy.  A successful outcome is literally life-changing for an underprivileged and deserving child. The other successes in my life have been dwarfed by that obtained in doing this work that positively changes the lives of others. The children have acted as examples of resilience, patience and humor in the face of always difficult, and sometimes extremely distressing, situations that has been inspirational to me. I have interacted with Social Workers during this work and have acquired an understanding of their role.  It has also demonstrated to me how different providers and organizations interact efficiently to reach early and desirable conclusions.

 My volunteer activity re-fired my interest in becoming a professional Social Worker. Indeed I have become passionately committed to doing so. I have thought about this application very carefully. I am aware that it is possible for an ‘outsider’ to sentimentalize the caring professions and to imagine that instant solutions exist to serious situations. I know that situations calling for professional intervention are often highly complex and that the complexities may not be immediately apparent, that careful and sensitive investigation is required to define a problem and identify possible solutions.  I believe that my military service, voluntary work and even my recent management experience has given me opportunities to appreciate some of the realities of Social Work. I know that along with a mature, genuinely caring and positive attitude that it is also necessary to be realistic in terms of people and possible outcomes. I believe that I possess these characteristics and can be a highly effective Social Worker.

 My management experience is also, I believe, relevant to this application. I have five years management experience and related training. It seems to me that a good manager, has some of the characteristics necessary to succeed in Social Work. Successful management calls for maturity, a realistic attitude about people, good planning skills, flexibility and an interested and caring attitude to staff and their personal welfare and progress. Being a manager also requires good observational skills and the consequent ability to recognize a potential problem at an early stage and to intervene decisively to prevent it becoming more serious. I can bring these skills and training to the program and would regard them as highly relevant to it.

 My military experience is also directly relevant, especially as it would be my hope to work with soldiers and their families as a Social Worker. I am personally aware of the pressures arising from separation from families, the need to regularly re-adjust to new localities and people, exposure to physical danger, the eventual need to successfully re-integrate into civilian life and the many other unusual demands of military life.  I can relate directly to the problems suffered by soldiers and their families and will be able to draw upon my own, similar, experiences in assisting them. Military life also teaches and requires successful teamwork. I was regarded as a good ‘team player’ with a readiness to share and to assist.  I regard this too as relevant to success in this program.

 In addition to my experience of being initially raised in another cultural environment and subsequently adjusting to a new one, I have worked with people of many different backgrounds and cultures in the Army and in subsequent employment. I have also travelled widely in Europe and in the Caribbean.  I have no difficulty in relating well to others whatever their heritage or background. My own background was financially modest and I would hope to be an example to others who share this background of what can be achieved, in the course of my future work.

 It is my intention, having completed the program, to apply the skills acquired by returning to the Army Reserve and serve as a Social Work Officer. It is clear to me that the Army does an excellent job of turning civilians into effective soldiers but I am yet to be convinced that they are as good at turning soldiers into successful civilians and it is my hope to assist in identifying and implementing ways of doing so. I intend to specialize in work with soldiers returning from active deployment as I am aware that they often suffer ‘hidden wounds’ which may not be manifested until some time after the return to a more normal environment. My ultimate ambition is to head a Social Work Department in a VA hospital or other military facility. I would hope to undertake research during the program within a military environment and specifically in the areas of Post Traumatic Stress and particularly as it affects female soldiers.

 As I understand Social Work, it is ‘all about people’ and involves forming positive relationships with people as an advisor, advocate, counselor or listener with the end of helping them to live their lives more successfully and by helping them to find practical and successful solutions to their problems. I also understand that reaching successful conclusions may involve interaction with families, friends and other relevant organizations and parties.

 I believe that I have the personal qualities required of an effective Social Worker. I also believe that my voluntary work, military background and management training and experience enable me to be bring very relevant skills and knowledge to the Master’s program and I look forward to sharing these with my class. Most importantly, I would bring a genuine and deeply felt desire to help others by obtaining the necessary training and knowledge to do so. I know that I can benefit from the program and share those benefits with others in my future career as a Social Worker.

 Thank you for considering my application for the Master’s program in Social Work.

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