In my exploration of different populations in the social work field, I interned at San Andreas Regional Center (SARC) in order to learn more about the population diagnosed with developmental disabilities. I received insight into the dynamics of caring for people with autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other conditions of the like and learned about the various ways such a population is disenfranchised and taken advantage of outside organizations that cater specifically to them.
Working as a nanny for several years has also given me the opportunity to experience close interactions with a variety of different families from the lower to the middle and to the higher end of the socioeconomic spectrum. Single-parent households, blended families, LGBT families, families with children diagnosed with mental health issues and/or learning deficiencies are among the many families I worked with.
Although they all had different ideals, beliefs, cultures, and ways they raised their children, their main concern was finding someone to help foster a safe and fun learning environment for them. Receiving my internship experience in almost the complete opposite line of work, with the same population, through the Santa Clara County Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS), confirmed the fact that this is indeed the population my heart is set on working with. Like nannying, work closely with families, however, under completely different circumstances.
The difference is that the children that I work with have experienced abuse and neglect while living in the homes of parents suffering from substance abuse, mental health issues, homelessness, trauma and coming mostly from low-income households. Through this experience I learned that a safe and loving environment is detrimental to a child’s health and well-being and is essential for their personal growth. Such experience has also led me to decide that I ultimately want to invest my efforts and further my education with a concentration in children, youth and families.
C. Contribution Efforts to the Profession And Society As Social Worker Living in both Los Angeles and San Jose, two of the biggest and most diverse cities in the United States, has granted me the opportunity to interact closely and establish relationships with people from various ethnicities, cultures, classes, and beliefs, different from mine. To furthermore, expand my knowledge on different cultures was the experience of sharing the same household with people from different backgrounds. Upon moving to San Jose to attend SJSU, Freshmen were required to live on-campus for a year if they lived further than a certain mile radius away.
Being from Los Angeles, I was part of the group that had to fulfill the requirement. I lived in the Campus Village Apartments and shared a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom unit with 6 girls. There was a combination of different ethnicities, cultures, religions, and to my pleasant surprise everyone respected each other’s differences and learned about the different struggles and forms of oppression that we have all faced. Prior to our move-in we were given the names of our roommates and I had originally thought that I was going to have more things in common with my housemate with a hispanic last name than with anyone else in the house.
However, it actually turned out that I had more in common with my African-American roommate, who was also came from a low-income household in Southern California, than I did with my 3rd generation Mexican-American roommate who came from a middle-class suburban city. I had no idea the impact that different generations and cultural differences outside of race have the ability to make until I actually experienced it. Thanks to this experience, I feel my culturally competency expanded to new horizons.
As a social worker, I plan to take what I have learned from my experience and ducation of the transcultural perspective that San Jose State’s mission has established and practice it with people I work with. This will be one of the many ways I plan on contributing to the profession to promote social justice as well as advocate for the communities who consistently face oppression and social injustices. D. Strengths and Areas of Growth Influencing Abilities to be a Professional Social Worker Prior to my first job in the nursing home, I did not consider my bilingual ability to be much of a strength.
I spoke Spanish at home to communicate with my parents and my family members and I spoke English at school to communicate with friends and everyone else. I realize that I had not considered it as a strength because I never used it as such. However, that undiscovered strength came in handy when I started working in the nursing home. A newly admitted resident approached me, and anxiously tried to explain to me what his issue was, he had a very hard time trying to communicate with me in English and right away I recognized his spanish accent.
In Spanish, I asked him if he spoke the language and if he preferred me speaking to him in Spanish. Immediately, his eyes widened in pleasant surprise, his shoulders visibly became less tense and in that moment I realized the tangibility of my strength as a bilingual person. I learned that when a person from a foreign culture or language expresses genuine interest in trying to communicate with and understand a client, or anybody in general, it can make the world of a difference.
Apart from that, the personal hardships I have experienced, have given me a strong sense of self-reflexivity; another strength that I feel will help me be a more conscientious social worker, as well as one that I feel will strengthen my transcultural perspective. I would like to gain additional experience working more closely with the Native American population, the homeless population, the LGBT community and at-risk youth. In order to further acquire the growth and knowledge I need, and ultimately specialize in the concentration of working with families and children, I feel earning my MSW degree is imperative.
I have learned so much through the tumultuous learning experiences living in San Jose has provided me with and would like nothing more but to continue to build on and give back to the community that has taught me a great deal about social injustices, oppression, poverty, and how to work toward solving such issues. Through receiving an education at an institution that celebrates diversity and thrives on innovation, I see no better place than to continue my education at San Jose State University.