Degree: Master’s of Social Work
Concentration: Community Organizing
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
When I graduate in May of 2019 it will be almost 20 years since my undergraduate experience. I never intended to go back to school. After spending a decade in non-profit community work, I knew that was the path I wanted to take, but was getting frustrated at not being able to make the impact I knew I was capable of. In July of 2016 I attended a Community and School Violence Prevention Symposium that was sponsored by UConn. One of the projects I was working on at the time was convening a small coalition addressing issues of community violence prevention, but without a lot of direction or an idea of what success would look like. The UConn conference was inspiring in that it gave me a clear picture of what the current climate was and how to set small tangible and achievable goals. There was also a focus on building networks of people to make exponential change. There was an emphasis on the fact that social workers could take the lead in these initiatives and that in fact it felt like a mandate based on social work values.
Why did you choose your concentration?
After this conference, I looked into UConn’s curriculum and really identified with the Community Organizing track. I hadn’t realized what macro social work was and I was excited to see the curriculum description lined up with what I saw myself doing. The part of the description that spoke to me most was, “empowering communities to work for change”. It perfectly stated the goal of what I hoped a future career could be.
What did you accomplish that you are most proud of?
Building networks of incredible people. The varied experiences and stories of my classmates allowed me to learn and be challenged in ways I had not been before. I’ve come to be accepted as part of a dynamic and dedicated cohort that will go on to do amazing things! I’m proud to be worthy of counting myself among them.
What do you plan to do after you graduate?
I hope to continue working on community gun violence reduction initiatives here in Hartford. I have been working for many years to bring attention to the tremendous work being done by
neighborhood agencies, institutions and community leaders. I hope to use my community organizing skills and my social work values to build coalitions and amplify these efforts.
How has UConn prepared you to be a social worker?
I come from a family of social workers. I have had amazing models in my mother and both my sisters. UConn has prepared me to be a social worker by reinforcing those values learned at home and solidifying them as a lens through which to approach my work in the community. UConn has also introduced me to advocacy as social work. There have been opportunities to advocate for change within the school of social work, bringing up issues that shape our experience and the quality of our education. UConn has been open to that from us as a student cohort. Challenging these issues at UConn and learning the process of advocating for structural change has been a great lesson in preparing to practice social work.
How has UConn shaped you as a person?
I am a transplant to Connecticut. The people I’ve met here at the UConn School of Social Work have become part of my chosen family and I’ve been so fortunate to build up my own community with my classmates. I have been challenged by them, laughed and learned with them. They have helped me recognize my own value as a person and as a social worker.
If you could summarize your experience at the UConn SSW in three words, what would they be?
Humbling. Empowering. Challenging.
What advice would you give an incoming SSW student?
Speak to the things you don’t know. Share the things you do. Everyone’s experience is valuable. If you can, take time outside of school to get to know your classmates and what they are passionate about.