I am honored to serve as the newly elected Secretary to the SSWAA Board. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to advocate for the resources and supports necessary to reduce social, emotional and mental barriers to learning faced by numerous children across the nation. The ecological lens from which school social workers can view and understand complex environmental factors impacting a student’s ability to learn is an asset of our profession. From this lens, we are able to provide and advocate for evidence-based intervention and prevention strategies to reduce those barriers. SSWAA’s development of a National School Social Work Framework, numerous professional development offerings grounded in evidence-based practice, and commitment to research solidifies SSWAA as one of the most respected national organizations over the past few years. It is an honor and privilege to be part of this influential national association committed to the profession of school social work.
I have been a school social worker for St. Paul Public Schools for the past 10 1/2 years. However, I have been working in public education for 16 years. After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology, I was hired by the Alternative Learning Center in St. Paul Schools as a Social Work Assistant/Youth Worker. After a couple of years in this role, I quickly realized that in order to be the most effective advocate and mental health practitioner I could be, I needed to return to school and become a licensed mental health professional. I returned to school in 2000 and continued to work full-time while attending the University of St. Thomas/University of St. Catherine joint Masters of Social Work Program. I graduated from the University of St. Thomas/College of St. Catherine Masters of Social Work Program in 2003 and earned my clinical licensure in 2009. For the past 5 years, I have been the school social worker at Agape High School which is an alternative learning program for pregnant and parenting teen girls. I am inspired every day by the resiliency and strength of the young adults with whom I work. I feel incredibly grateful to be a part of a holistic approach to helping students overcome various barriers to learning in order to achieve their goals.
My experience as a school social worker has provided me with expertise in children and adolescent mental health services and best practice in meeting the emotional needs of youth through individual and group counseling, assessment and evaluation of student needs, program development, advocacy and education of staff, families and community members to enhance student success. I have been a member of the Minnesota School Social Workers Association since 2002 serving on the Legislative Committee from 2002-2007, appointed Legislative Chair from 2007 to 2013 and am currently the President of the Minnesota School Social Workers’ Association. I have also been a member of SSWAA for the past five years and have attended SSWAA’s Leadership Conference in 2010 and 2011 which lead me to become a member of SSWAA’s Legislative Committee. I continue to serve on SSWAA’s Legislative Committee today. I have also attended SSWAA’s conferences in Boston, San Diego and Chicago and I currently serve as the delegate for Minnesota. In addition, I am currently active in the Midwest School Social Work Council and sit on the Recognition and Promotions Committee.
Although the role of the school social worker can look different based on the needs of the students and school, one common role we all share is advocacy. Advocacy is one of the cornerstones of our work and is guided by our professional values of service, social justice, dignity and worth of a person, importance of human relationships, integrity and competence. I believe that advocacy is at the heart of SSWAA’s vision. Each person on the SSWAA board brings a unique perspective, expertise and knowledge base that has positioned SSWAA to become a powerful force in promoting the value and necessity of school social work as a profession. One of my goals as SSWAA’s Secretary would be to work with the board to empower members to extend their advocacy role beyond his/her building to becoming an agent of change within their communities on a macro level. We as school social workers have first hand knowledge regarding the issues facing our students and their families in our school districts that our elected officials and other community decision-makers such as School Board Members, Administrators, etc. may not understand. Imagine the extraordinary impact we could have if every SSWAA member created at least one relationship with the decision-makers in their state combined with the ongoing work of SSWAA’s Legislative Committee. SSWAA’s collaboration with representatives from the Legislature, US Department of Education and other Professional National Associations has empowered states to model the same type of macro-level advocacy ensuring that the needs of our children, youth and families are addressed at all levels. My goal would be to assist SSWAA in extending this role further in the states.
Another goal of becoming a member of the SSWAA Board would be to continue to work with SSWAA leaders in creating venues to promote the incredible work we do every day across the nation. The larger community as a whole is unfamiliar or unclear about our roles within the educational context in promoting academic achievement for all students. My desire would be to increase SSWAA’s presence not only in the media but also at national conferences hosted by our colleagues like the National School Boards Association, National Principals Association, etc. I am committed to educating our greater community about our profession and the value of the work we do every day.
My professionalism and passion are at the core of who I am as a leader. Additional strengths that I have to offer the SSWAA board include creativity, effective problem solving skills, organizational skills, enthusiasm, word-processing capability and the capacity to multi-task. Most importantly my dedication to and love for this profession continually propel me to fulfill the mission of SSWAA and MSSWA. I look forward to serving all of you and being a voice for the students and families that we serve!