As a prospective student, I had a chance to talk with the Dean of the School of Social Work. She told me about the different social work jobs that she had in her career, and shared a book called 101 Career in Social Work. Everything sounded great! I always wanted to be in a helping profession, but what steered me to a Social Work major was the desire to work with groups of people – with communities, families, and the social systems that surround and impact an individual. Once I was accepted into Illinois and took my first few social work classes, I was completely sold.

As a first generation college student, even the smallest things on campus were genuinely meaningful to me – from moving into my dorm freshman year, to crossing the stage at graduation. I loved all my classes, but it all came together for me when I used the skills I learned through my studies. For example, during my senior year, I got a taste of work experience through my internship at the University Primary School. I was one of the first social work interns at the school. So, we had to create our own way in this environment. I chose to work with the fourth and fifth grade classrooms, focusing on small group work related to enhancing social-emotional skills. I also conducted some one-on-one work with kids who were diagnosed with a mental disorder. I did some research, drew upon my classwork, and consulted with my site supervisor to develop, implement, and evaluate my own curriculum. It was such an amazing experience.

Now I work as a Parent Educator at Easter Seals. We serve at-risk families, assisting parents with early intervention services with children ranging from prenatal care to age three. Our primary goal is to support parents as they help their children meet developmental milestones in preparation for school readiness. Every day, I look forward to helping families to use their own strengths to reach their goals. I do home visits and visits to a local school to support teen mothers. We discuss sleep, eating, stress, and mental health. We bring free books and do field trips with other families to build support systems and community. We also focus on how the parent is doing. If the parent is not physically healthy and in a healthy state of mind, (s)he cannot give 100% to the child. The most rewarding part of this work is supporting these women and men on their parenting journeys and, together, being able to watch the children meet their developmental milestones. I enjoy being that resource and extra support that helps a parent interact with their children without any distractions, because that is the key to their children developing healthily.

For current students back on campus… I encourage you to remember to use all the resources that are available to you. There are resources around every corner. They are there to help you be a better student, and to help you be successful at whatever career you choose afterward as well. You do not need to be alone. Reach out.