Seniors discuss social work
Emilie Kefalas | Sunday, December 7, 2014
Saint Mary’s final Justice Friday’s lecture of the fall semester engaged students and faculty in a round table discussion on social work experiences and internships, titled “Social Work Students: South Bend as their Classroom.”
Several senior social work majors shared their experiences in the field, including work at RiverBend Cancer Services and United Way. Each student had a unique field placement experience to discuss, giving their audience a glimpse of what social work involves, senior social work major Meredith Mersits said.
A research assistant in the Saint Mary’s social work department, Mersits said internships help prepare students for their future in social work.
“Everyone’s doing something different and awesome,” she said.
Senior Jessica Hoffman said she works at a charter school in South Bend where often finds herself dealing with typical high school drama.
“It’s high school drama I have to sift through,” she said. “It can be from a school fight to suicide. You get the whole range of problems in a school setting.”
Similar to Hoffman, senior Krista Mathews said she works with a social worker at James Whitcomb Riley High School in South Bend.
“It’s a wide range of social work problems at Riley,” she said. “I’m very lucky because I get to observe the social worker there, and then I also get to meet with students one-on-one if it’s not that serious of a problem, which is good because I get to work on my interviewing skills.
“I talk about things like managing stress, and that’s a lot of fun. I get to go to case conference meetings. I really become part of the school.”
“We currently have 30 kids in our care,” Chittenden said. “A lot of them are respites, which means [there is a short] time when foster families can get a break and send the [foster] kids to respite care.
“We work with a lot of different cases. Today we actually went over a case where a child just lashes out uncontrollably. They can’t figure out what’s going on with him. We go on home visits every week. We provide different services to all the kids. It can range from speech therapy to counseling. We have kids ranging from as young as six months old to 21 years old.”
Senior Molly Smith said she currently works at the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) with clients seeking drug and domestic violence treatment.
“It’s very interesting [with] a lot of different things,” she said. “The interesting thing about the drug treatment is that it allows clients to bring children. We get women who are referred to by the police, and we work with them. They can stay there for six to eight weeks. There’s actually a kids’ therapist there now, which is great. It’s a really great placement.”
Senior Kelly Crooks said she also works with victims of domestic abuse at the Family Justice Center of St. Joseph County, where she also manages the crisis line from 6 a.m. to noon on Fridays.
“We’re kind of like a one-stop-shop,” she said. “The idea behind the family center, we have a counselor. The special victims unit is in our building.
“The CASIE Center (Child Abuse Services, Investigation and Education) is [used] if somebody thinks a child has been sexually assaulted. We also have a protective order attorney. We go over our safety training, [and] we’re working on updating all our resources right now. S-O-S [rape crisis center], which is part of the family center, [accompanies] victims to the hospital. We’re on call for the crisis line.”
Senior Jessica Richmond said she interns at United Way, a new placement option for first-year social work majors this year.
“United Way has just this year done a poverty transition so they’re an issue-focused agency,” she said. “The cool part about United Way is that we fund a lot of the agencies we have girls placed at. Part of my job is working some of the programs that United Way funds specifically, [and] helping the agencies in the room apply for allocations.”
A double major in social work and communications, Cat Zalduendo said she works at REAL Services in the development offices to understand and get exposure to the different areas within a non-profit organization.
“I’m involved in a lot of different parts of the agency from program research to donor research,” she said. “I help organize fundraisers for the agencies. I have done a lot of client interviews, just gather their stories, and those go into our e-newsletters. I’ve done a lot of grant proposals. REAL Services is an agency catered to older people, but there’s also a community service side so I’ve been able to get a sense of a lot of different programs.”
Mersits said she feels those in social work are very lucky to have their select field placements to assist them in their future career endeavors.
“I think the program we have here is great, and all the professors have taught us so well that we are prepared to go out into the field,” she said. “I feel we are all very equipped to enter into our field as social workers.”