Major: Social Work
Year of Graduation: 2000
Current Job: Social Worker, St. Cloud Veteran's Medical Center
What makes you look forward to coming to work each day?
I am fortunate to have an opportunity to make a difference in someone's life every day. My clients are people who are looking for someone to weave strands of hope into their lives. My clients are people who have reached a point in their lives where they are reaching out to someone for help. I consider it a great privilege to be a person they can confide in as they try to make changes in their lives. It takes a lot of courage for someone to allow themselves to be vulnerable and ask for help. I don't take that privilege for granted.
What are some of the things you were involved in during college that helped you initially begin your career?
I volunteered as a mentor for elementary students in Saint Cloud during my first year at SJU. I was also involved with the Admissions Department in recruiting more students of color. I was a member of the Cultural Affairs Board, Social Work Club, and the Chicano-Latino Student Organization. The combined involvement with the central Minnesota community and the university contributed to my desire to do more. As a sophomore, I began to work with the Admissions Department in developing an outreach program for Latino youth in central Minnesota. By my senior year at SJU, with the support of the university, I had developed the Fast Forward Youth Program (FFYP). We had procured an endowment for the program, utilized over 100 CSB/SJU students as volunteer Tutor-Mentors and enrolled more than 60 Latino youth from the Willmar, St. Cloud, and Rocori school districts. Over the past ten years, FFYP has had more than 500 CSB/SJU students serve as volunteers and worked with hundreds of youth. Today, the program is still running strong and has expanded to serve other populations.
How has the liberal arts education you received at CSB/SJU helped you?
The education I received inside and outside of the classroom at CSB/SJU has helped me to become the good man I am today. There was an exceptional staff in the Social Work Department who provided me with guidance and nurtured my passion for social activism. I still recall many of the lectures with Dr. Ralph Holcomb which focused on exploring the strengths of a person instead of their weaknesses. It was through my Social Work education at CSB/SJU that I learned the importance of empathy, humility, compassion, and hard work.
Describe a typical day at work.
My day at work begins at 7:30 a.m. with our "Morning Report". All of the mental health staff in our building meets each morning to discuss the previous day and night with our patients. The morning involves meeting with the veterans in a large group, individual therapy sessions, and facilitation of a therapy group. I may also have consultations with other members of our staff such as nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, additional therapist, etc. The afternoon usually consists of another therapy group that I facilitate as well as miscellaneous meetings or doing progress notes on my clients. Most days I'm done by 4 pm, but sometimes I will meet with clients beyond that time if necessary.
What advice would you give to students as they contemplate their major and/or career choices?
Pursue your passion! If you are as fortunate as I am, your passion will be something you are good at doing on a daily basis. If you don't know what your passion is, try a variety of things until you find something that invokes passion from you. It should be something you look forward to doing more often than not. It should be something that makes you feel good about yourself. You'll know when you find it. I took courses in many of the social sciences before I decided on Social Work. Once you find your passion, work hard and invest yourself in learning as much as you can about the subject. Challenge yourself by doing something that you haven't done. You'll find it's easier to get motivated about working in a particular field or subject if you are passionate about it. Lastly, I would encourage you to remember a quote I refer to often in my life. It is a quote by Pericles which states, "What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others."