By Alejandra Reyes-Velarde
UCLA Luskin Student Writer
Each March, the social work community celebrates National Social Work Month and some of the amazing work that UCLA Luskin social welfare students and alumni have done. This year, the theme for National Social Work Month is “Social Work Paves the Way for Change,” intended to highlight the people and projects that have been contributing their work to create social change. Below are just a few examples of Luskin social welfare students that have been doing just that with their internships.
Social Welfare student Leena Richman is an intern contributing to the Student Health & Human Services at Berendo Middle school. Student Health & Human Services is a team of professionals that collaborate with schools and families, education service centers and communities to provide physical and mental health services to students in the Los Angeles County.
During her time as an intern at Berendo Middle School, Richman took on a variety of roles from helping with mental health services to handing out fliers to make sure students know about the services they provide.
Richman was one of three interns highlighted in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Student Health and Human Services Newsletter in honor of Social Work Month.
“My experience as a school social work intern thus far has further ignited my passion for working within the school setting,” she said.
The executive director of the Student Health and Human Services Division, Debra Duardo, is a UCLA MSW alumna from 1996. In 2013, she was named the Joseph A. Nunn Social Welfare Alumnus of the Year.
Passionate Luskin students have also been doing work in Los Angeles at the Koreatown Youth and Community Center (KYCC).
KYCC has given first year Social Welfare students the opportunity to gain interdisciplinary experiences in areas like gang reduction and youth development by being involved in different programs at the Center. Their responsibilities vary from conducting counseling intakes and providing case management to overseeing homework clubs and assisting with policy research.
Interns are also provided with training from staff members to learn about financial literacy, grant writing and clinical supervision, giving interns a well rounded experience of what it is like to be a social worker in Los Angeles.
Eva Ray, a student intern from the Department of Social Welfare said since each student is assigned an internship outside of their comfort zone, she wasn’t sure what to expect when she started at KYCC.
“As soon as I met the staff I would be working with, though, I felt fortunate to have been placed there because everyone is so collaborative, hard-working and energetic. There is a lot of opportunity to help shape the way the program will run in the future,” she said.
Ray is part of the Prevention and Education unit and is responsible for running a workshop for middle school students about alcohol and marijuana awareness as well as building their communication skills. Since many of the students are young Black and Latino males with behavioral issues and low socioeconomic status, Ray said that she is grateful to be granted the ability to change and adapt the curriculum provided based on each student’s unique needs. Ray has enjoyed helping students gain the skills to combat the challenges that they will face in a society built to oppress them.
“I like that I am…educating (the students) on how their thoughts and feelings inform their behavior, and helping them practice mindful communication and self-reflection so that they can express themselves more effectively,” Ray said. “I enjoy getting to know each student and learning about their lives, and I love the high energy and spirit that comes when working with middle school youth.”
Two first year MSW students, Elsie Silva and Karen Ochoa, celebrated Social Work Month on March 2 by taking part in a resource fair and undergarment drive for community members. Each year, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center organizes the event — the largest resource fair to date with 32 community organizations participating — in order to provide patients and employees with information on legal aid, mental health services, child and senior services, food, financial and employment assistance, and much more.
“It is truly remarkable to witness our community unite and celebrate the field of social work by giving back to our neediest patients,” said Silva. “The social work interns were an integral part of this event by contacting and enlisting the organizations that participated while also helping on the day of the resource fair.”
“These efforts to not only honor social work month, but outreach to some of the most underserved in our city cannot be underestimated,” said Field Education faculty member Gerry Lavina.
With the passion, energy and personal care of social welfare students, the Luskin community is well represented in Los Angeles and has made a profound impact in the lives of all ages for social worker month this March.