By Ashley Leeds, SSWAA Board Student Representative
Meet Rebecca Alford, a University of South Carolina MSW student, who has worked with youth in a residential capacity for over eight years. School Social Work feels like the logical next step for her. She states that, “child welfare organizations, especially those operating in a residential capacity, are changing. Schools and the Social Workers that are apart of them are going to be even more vital to family engagement and transitional living support that the other organizations may no longer be able to provide. Most youths come into contact with public schools at some point during their education journey. More importantly, that means families become apart of the public school system as well. For our youth and families that need extra support or resources, the School Social Worker is the key to connecting the dots.”
Rebecca feels that the mission statement of SSWAA establishes the connection between academics and social-emotional growth. Schools are no longer just about learning your core subjects of Math, ELA, Science, and Social Studies. Our schools have to worry about the whole student more than ever. Now that we understand the impact of trauma and how that can affect the academic success of our students, we are better able to serve our youth. The mission statement of SSWAA is so meaningful because it gets to the heart of why School Social Workers are so important. School Social Workers need to be advocates for not only the students but the teachers and other school personnel when it comes to embracing the social and emotional learning, whether through restorative practices or other trauma-informed models. Rebecca viewed joining SSWAA as a way to connect with other social workers who are doing what she wants to be doing. Social Work, and especially school social work, must be taken on collaboratively. In South Carolina, School Social Work is still a growing profession, and what better way to start the collaborative process than through the advocacy for School Social Work. She wants to learn from those out there who have created the opportunity for this profession to grow. She hopes to learn more about the best practices and the inspiring data that support social-emotional practices that impact the work we are doing every day.
Rebecca is lucky enough to be completing one of her field placements in School Social Work under a small group of amazing School Social Workers. This time has taught her the importance of advocating and educating not only the public but other professionals about Social Work. She wants to contribute her enthusiasm for the advocacy of the Social Work profession, and especially the field of School Social Work. So often, a School Social Worker may be the first mental health professionals to reach out to a family in a time of crisis or worry. Social Workers are the voice for those who don't feel they have one and the bridge that helps them find the resources they need.
In the future, Rebecca desires to start her professional Social Work career, and she was certain that she wanted to quickly become a licensed clinical social worker and utilize TF-CBT in her work with youth who have experienced early childhood trauma. That work was going to evolve into the incorporation of animal-assisted therapy. While she still sees herself incorporating animal-assisted therapy in whatever she does because she values and appreciates the animal-human connection. She cannot for certain say that is where her journey will end. This year she has watched first hand how legislation can very quickly change practice. She wants to take her experience working in direct care and use it to advocate on a macro level for policy and system change. No matter where her career takes her, Rebecca knows that will always be advocating and striving to impact youth positively.
After thinking for a while, Rebecca decided that she would like to rid the world of uneducated judgment. So quickly, we react and speak about things or people we have not first taken the time to get to know or understand. It is so easy in the culture that we have created to allow that uneducated judgment to turn to anger and hatred. She wants to be a part of a world where we take the time to gather facts and see the other person's perspective or way of life before casting judgment. We, as a community, need to be more concerned with our ability to listen than always to be heard.
Rebecca is such a hard worker and advocate in the field of School Social Work, so she ensures that she has time to take care of herself. She loves working and playing with her dogs. Her dream is to one day train her dog to be a therapy dog, so they can together can impact the lives of young people positively. Rebecca and her husband love taking time to be outside, whether on the water or in the woods. Whenever there is time that she can steal between working full time, attending graduate school, or being at field placement, her days are spent outside.
Thanks for bringing your energy, enthusiasm, and work ethic to SSWAA, Rebecca! We are so glad to have you in our community.