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Reason for Hope

By: Rebecca Oliver, SSWAA Executive Director

Thinking back to childhood, many of us can identify with past hopes and dreams. Perhaps as a child you hoped for a new bike or a cool back-to-school lunchbox or a snow day. Some of the hopes of later days may have included hopes for an "A" on that test or winning a big game or getting the lead in the school play. One might even have hoped for that acceptance letter into college or a cancelled test or the accomplishment of an important "first" (first job, first college graduate, first car, etc.). All of these hopes and dreams are understandable and have merit. Yet, some of them may lead us to believe that hope is mere wishful thinking.

If you pull out your dictionary (old school) or look in an online dictionary or Google search, it is likely that you will see that there are multiple definitions for the word, hope. In a quick Google search, the definitions from Oxford Languages include¹:

noun 1. a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

2. a feeling of trust.

verb 1. want something to happen or be the case.

Similarly, when looking in the online site², the following definitions are listed:

noun 1. the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out

for the best.

2. a particular instance of this feeling.

verb 1. to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.

2. to believe, desire, or trust.

Perhaps, you, like me, will contemplate the deeper more powerful meaning of hope.

One image that pops into my mind when I think of hope are my dogs, poised in the window when I come home. Sometimes it seems a bit uncanny to me; it is as if they know it is time for my arrival. So often, when I come back home from running errands, an appointment, or meeting my husband for dinner, I return to see a little face in the window. Quiet at first but then barking in delight that I am home. To me, this demonstrates the true meaning of hope. My pups don't just hope I will come home like some lofty wish; they wait and watch with reasonable confidence.

Another image that comes to mind is the image of a lighthouse. It is hard for me to truly comprehend what the explorers experienced many years ago - exploration on a ship without modern technology and just a compass to guide your way, often encompassed by the dark of night with only the stars to light your way. This must have been challenging and frightful. Add to that an unexpected storm (remember, no weather app to tell you the rain or winds are coming) and the resulting tumultuous waves, and I can only imagine that fear and dread were common emotions. But then, from the horizon, imagine the hope that filled a traveler's heart when they saw the beacon from a lighthouse. This was not a mere hope that land was near, but a reasonable confidence that the travelers would be able to make their way to shore or navigate the shore safely.

This is the type of hope we celebrate this week, School Social Work Week - March 7-13, 2021. The School Social Work Association of America has the theme of "Beacon of Hope: School Social Workers – Lighting the Way.” School social work professionals across the country will be able to highlight and celebrate how they bring HOPE into the lives of students, families, and school communities.

How do School Social Workers bring HOPE to Students?

School Social Workers:

· start with building meaningful relationships founded in listening

· focus on strengths

· respect self-determination and start where the student is

· empower students and offer support via skill building and useful strategies

· offer a voice for marginalized youth and support students being seen and heard

· offer a safe space for students - listening to the feelings and needs of students

· assist students in overcoming barriers to learning by offering tangible support and

necessary resources

· provide social/emotional/behavioral supports to support student success

· encourage students and celebrate their growth and success

· offer students a reasonable confidence that they are heard, cared for, valued, and


How do School Social Workers bring HOPE to Families?

School Social Workers:

· start with building meaningful relationships founded in listening

· work from an ecological perspective and recognize the impact of home and


· emphasizing a strengths-based approach

· engage with families and encourage family involvement

· honor a family’s ethnic and cultural identity

· leverage needed resources to assist with family stressors or needs

· promote a continuum of services

· connect families to needed community services, thus building a reasonable

confidence that needs will be met and support is available

How do School Social Workers bring HOPE to the school community?

School Social Workers:

· start with building meaningful relationships founded in listening

· highly value the contributions of all school personnel: administrators, teachers,

counselors, school psychologists, school nurses, and all support staff

· support their school colleagues

· actively participate in team collaboration and problem-solving

· lend their training and expertise to school-wide needs and interventions

· are change agents and challenge systemic bias, inequities, and social injustice

· advocate for student voice

· promote a positive school climate and family involvement

· offer a unique contribution to the school team thus building a reasonable confidence

that change, progress, and success are within reach

How do School Social Workers keep themselves established/grounded in HOPE?

School Social Workers:

· focus on personal strengths and strengths of their role/profession

· practice positive self-talk

· seek out meaningful and healthy relationships

· celebrate successes and learn from mistakes

· remind themselves of the good in themselves and others

· practice balance

· take time for self-care

· stay grounded in emotional and spiritual support systems

· extend grace to themselves and others

We can have reasonable confidence that our meaningful profession has the power to make positive change! School Social Workers are poised to make transformational change in schools and communities by infusing HOPE into the lives of the students, families, and communities in which they work. There is reason for hope!



Rebecca K. Oliver is the Executive Director of the School Social Work Association of America. Prior to becoming the Executive Director, Mrs. Oliver served on the SSWAA Board of Directors and has over 20 years experience working as a school social worker. In her current role with SSWAA, Rebecca is able to support school social workers across the nation and advocate for the profession about which she is so passionate. When not working, Rebecca enjoys traveling with her husband Jon, singing, running, reading, doing home-improvements, and outdoor activities including walks with her two dogs, Abby & Buddy.

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