I've wanted to work in the field of social work ever since I was a child -- before I ever even knew or understood what social work was or that it existed as a profession. Ever since I was young, I've been sensitive to the pain of others: not just people in my immediate family, but everyone in my community. I understood as a small child that my parents were having issues in their marriage -- even when there was no fighting to witness. It was just as sense of palpable sadness and struggle that I sensed them both experiencing and I longed to help them. A desire to help others has always been at the front of my mind ever since I was young, so much so, my mother thought that I might become a nurse. One time my father told me that I had to be very careful around Gretchen, the old lady who lived across the street because her husband had just died. From that day on, every day after school I would bring her a hand-picked bouquet of flowers. Looking back, I realize now, it was actually a handpicked bunch of dandelions (weeds) but the gesture always made her smile.
Once I got older, I was able to appreciate the power that social work had in empowering individuals and helping them to work with programs available and I longed to see what good I could achieve in helping others. My parents always taught me never to judge anyone, as some people had a lot of struggle and difficulties to get through in life, that others were spared. I feel this non-judgmental attitude has behooved me a great deal in this profession in my ability to be compassionate. I've gravitated to graduate work in this field because I think that it can better educate me about some of the larger issues in social work, help me get in touch with my abilities for transforming the world for the better, and to making a commitment to transform the global society in a more meaningful way. Graduate programs in social work are generally incredibly rigorous, and I feel that rigor can help me to truly grapple with some of the more enormous issues of the world that make social work a necessity. These issues are things like oppression and marginalization of certain groups, unequal opportunity, and economic disparity; a graduate degree will help me see these problems from a variety of perspectives to help me be better informed.
My experiences in social work have been both paid and volunteer and all experiences which I feel have given me a thorough and diverse background to the field. For example, I first started doing volunteer work in a homeless shelter during and after college. I started slowly, just helping prepare and serve the meals. Over time I got to know some of our more frequent visitors better and I was able to build friendships with them. Eventually I started assisting some of the job counselors who work in collaboration with the homeless shelter and then I began career counseling on my own. We worked with other organizations within the community to help guide people to better choices and opportunities.
Later on I got a job working with teenagers who had become pregnant and who had all decided to keep their babies. This was one of the most fascinating jobs that I ever had and I learned more about strength and empathy from these girls than I have ever learned at any job. My role was to help guide these girls to thinking about their futures, completing high school and committing to going to college even though they had children. I had to help guide them to the child care resources that would be available and to educate them about the resources available in their community. These women were extremely brave and they supported one another and they had faith that their families and communities would be there for them, when often the father of their children was not.
These experiences helped to show me that very often people want to make their lives better, they just don't know how. These experiences have shown me that social work is about empowering people, and often giving them the encouragement that they don't already have in their lives. I personally have knowledge of a great deal of problems in my community and in my surrounding community. One problem is drug use and experimentation in the teenage and pre-teen communities. I was taught from a very young age that drugs were unacceptable and that I should never use them, "not even once." I feel that not enough young people are getting as strong a message, nor do they have compelling role models to warn them away from such choices. Social work can reach out to these kids and let them know that experimentation at this age can have really dire consequences for their lives and what they want to achieve in life.
As I alluded to earlier, I believe that the rigor and challenge of graduate social work will help me to evolve into someone who is more empowered, knowledgeable and innovative. These qualities along with a stronger command of the issues at hand and the resources available will enable me to help people in a more precise and lasting way. As I already stated, a problem that I see running rampant in the community is drug use with teenagers. However, with my specialty in social work, I believe I'd like to work exclusively with teens and issues specific to this age group -- pregnancies, mental health, drug use, and problems at home. I feel like I'm one of the few rare adults who remember very palpably what it is like to be a teenager -- and the unique and often truly difficult pressures that people of this age group are under. Aside from those qualities, when I interact with teenagers, I believe that I distinguish myself from other social workers in that I treat teenagers with respect, and I relate to them with a higher level of empathy than what they're used to. Many of the teenagers in my community have had to grow up really fast and that's largely because of the issues of violence, death and economic inequality that they were born into.
I can't think of any work or other commitment that would hinder my ability to dedicate myself 100% to a program in social work. I believe in immersing myself fully and completely in the program and the necessity of working hard so that I learn as much as humanly possible so that once I graduate, I'm a competitive prospect for jobs and that I have a tremendous amount to give back to the community.
I anticipate that there will be many areas of difficulty in this program, and that's what I'm excited about. Confronting some of these heavier social issues and seeing how they interact and reinforce one another and what they can do to be interrupted is a fascinating subject. For example, some communities that I've worked with have had a tremendously hard and heart-breaking time with gang violence. World-renowned conflict resolution experts have flown into these communities to help out, as has the National Guard, but to no avail. What has helped has been the work of grassroots organizations which have united and tried to take a stand against the violence and has tried to work together in a way that will thwart youths from fighting or feeling the need to pull guns on one another. It's fascinating to analyze and learn about some of these more complex issues, because even though they're difficult and weighty, the potential solutions can be uplifting and illuminating.…