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Addressing Issues of Equity

An interview with Dr. Leticia Villarreal Sosa, by Shercee Barrett, SSWAA Intern

On June 29th and 30th, the School Social Work Association of America is hosting its 23rd National School Social Work Conference - Virtual Edition. This conference boasts an agenda full of powerful speakers on topics related to School Social Work service delivery in light of COVID-19. SSWAA is excited to shine a spotlight on one of the Virtual Conference presenters, Dr. Leticia Villarreal Sosa.

Dr. Villarreal Sosa has been dedicated to SSWAA for the past decade as a member and most recently on the Board of Directors as the University Representative. Dr. Villarreal Sosa has been instrumental in the creation of the Practitioners of Color (POC) advisory committee and has been a liaison for school social work practitioners on an international level, bringing together individuals and communities in order to help society solve some of the most pressing issues.

Can you give us a summary of your presentation for the virtual conference?

In this presentation, we want to address issues of equity. We begin from a place of acknowledging the COVID-19 pandemic, and the inequalities that were exposed by the pandemic. However, we want to extend the conversation to consider the everyday work that school social workers must do to address issues of equity, particularly around racial equity. We want to provide a framework for understanding equity, and then talk about some very specific approaches on various practice levels to take action and promote equity and social justice.

What will be 2-3 "take-aways" that individuals attending your session can expect?

Understanding what an equity framework is, learning more about the role of school social workers in advocacy, and addressing historical and identity trauma.

How does this topic relate to on-going work that SSWAA is doing?

This work connects to ongoing work that SSWAA is doing to consider the ways in which we address issues of race, given that the demographics of the school contain a large percentage of immigrant students and students of color while most school social workers are white. In addition, we want to provide support and guidance for practitioners of color that often have to navigate both their identities and student social identities as well as tools for school social workers ready to think about what an anti-racist framework means.

What motivates you to continue to work in this field?

I have a commitment to this field both due to my own lived experience as a young brown woman in a predominately white setting. I did not have positive school experiences and I think school social workers can be important in the process of creating more inclusive climates and addressing issues of race and racism in the school setting.

What advice would you give individuals coming into the social work field?

I would advise them to challenge themselves, to engage with these issues on a school level, and to identity their allies and support people in the schools.

To hear more on this topic, consider registering for the SSWAA Virtual Conference: Summer Smorgasbord - Your Conference. Your Way.

Dr. Villarreal Sosa’s dedication to school social work is making a positive impact in relationships, building connections within communities, and rapport with other professionals. Throughout her commitment, she has published a number of works that illustrate her expertise and experiences; the most recent works are cited below. SSWAA appreciates Dr. Villarreal Sosa's commitment to confronting these challenges.

Villarreal Sosa, L. (2020). The role of school social workers and sex education: From policy advocacy to direct practice. Children & Schools, 42(2), 75-78.

Villarreal Sosa, L. & Lesniewski, J. (2020). De-colonizing study abroad: Social workers confronting racism, sexism and poverty in Guatemala. Social Work Education.

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