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SSWAA Spotlight: Haleemah Zulali

What led you to pursue a degree in Social Work?

  • When I graduated with a Bachelor's in Psychology at UCSD in 2018, I knew I wanted to use my education to help individuals in need, but I wasn’t entirely sure in what way at the time. I spent two years at Mann Middle School as a Youth Development Mentor through PASS AmeriCorps and the San Diego County Office of Education. Helping students who needed a bit of extra support in different areas of their middle school experience, seeing them form their goals, and witnessing their achievements through their hard work was a privileged experience for me. I think my time with students at Mann, my aspiration to help where I was needed, and also probably the fact that I am the eldest daughter of a family of five siblings, aided my path to Social Work to become a seamless path to take.

What is one of the Social Work values that resonate with you and why?

  • “Dignity and Worth of a Person.” It’s a personal value of mine that I share with the profession and it motivates me in how I support my clients.

What is one of the highlights of your time at the San Diego State University School of Social Work?

  • I think one of the biggest highlights is the amount of support and encouragement I have received from professors who I’ve conveyed my interests in School Social Work with. I have taken it upon myself to be more involved on and off campus aside from just going to school and internship, and I think I can give a lot of credit for the experience and accolade I’ve had to the support given to me by the staff at SDSU. (Starting with Professor Paul Brazzel! A big shout out to you of course!)

What is something that you have learned outside the traditional learning spaces (the classroom, internship, etc.) that you would like to share with the SSWAA community?

  • If you know me, you know I love to share this quote with anyone in the Social Work or helping profession. I would like to share it with you all: “Be the person you needed when you were younger.” -Ayesha Siddiqi

What brings you great pride in your work?

  • Seeing a client create a roadmap for their own success, and being there whenever they say they need me, is a beautiful thing to witness. I find it easy to notice other people’s boundless potential, but having an individual discover it within themselves is, I would say, a prideful moment.

What is one area where you hope to see and impact positive change in the social work and/or school social work realms?

  • More School Social Workers, of course! We are a wonderful bunch, and I think the world deserves a little more of us sprinkled around everywhere.

What is your hope for school social work in the next decade? How can we work to improve this profession?

  • This comes from a conversation I had with one of my professors, but I hope to see more School Social Work-related research. I think it would be an important element to build on, especially when it relates to how this area of Social Work is expanding so greatly. Along with refining our support for our clients, I think research could also do a lot to legitimize the importance of Social Workers in schools to the general public.

Haleemah Zulali is a SSWAA Member and worked with her university to sponsor her and her fellow classmates to attend last year's SSWAA conference in Chicago. She attends San Diego State University and is finishing her MSW this year. She also serves on the California Association of School Social Workers' Board as a Graduate Student Representative. She has done so much in her role to support student members across California by hosting webinars ranging from social community building events to School Social Work specific resume and interview support.

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