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MSW, African-American Woman, Justice System

I will be finishing my undergraduate studies in Social Work this coming May and I have my heart set on pursuing the MSW Degree at XXXX University because Providence is my home and the most convenient location for me to continue my studies at the graduate level. Here, I have the full support of my family, mentors, and many social connections, including many friends who are also social work professionals.

I could not feel more confident in the decision of Social Work as my career choice because of the profound joy that I find helping others. My volunteer work as an intern at XXXX Rhode Island, doing intakes and helping to provide a broad variety of services to our clients—including connecting them with the most vital resources of all, housing and employment—has enabled me to find a sense of fulfillment and joy in my profession that I could not have imagined only a few years ago.

As an African-American woman, I have a special interest in working to address the many complex issues that result in African-Americans being overly represented among those most in need of social support from the community. I am also interested in the fact that African-American’s are very much overrepresented in the US military, and the special challenges that African-Americans face as veterans, all too many of them suffering from mental health issues and many homeless as well. At XXXX Rhode Island I conduct individual intakes, meet with clients for follow up appointments and help clients to fill out housing and employment applications. I have come to appreciate the importance of meeting clients where they are, taking the time to listen to them and find out what resources they do have, and then take advantage of their resources to help them to meet their challenges. I feel very strongly that the only obstacle that cannot be overcome is death and that it is never too late to improve one’s life.

My own life experiences serve as the primary inspiration for my choice of social work as a career. My whole life I grew up putting everyone before myself. From a very young age, my mother was frequently absent because of her drug addiction. It didn’t take long for my grandmother to realize that she needed to become our legal guardian. I remember questioning myself, wondering if my grandmother was preventing me from having a relationship with my mother. I began to express feelings of rage towards my grandmother, not realizing that she was protecting me from even greater harm and injury. I was far too young to understand why I could not live with my mom, and this generated the negative consequence that I had greater love for my mother than I did for myself. As I matured, I slowly began to realize what it meant to have a drug problem like my mother does. In fact, my mother struggles valiantly until today to stay clean and sober and work to preserve her health. She tells me that I am her biggest cheerleader.

Every fiber of my being is engaged with the issues surrounding the bleak reality of mothers and addiction; and I am particularly knowledgeable in this regard with respect to the African-American community in Providence. I think I am an excellent candidate, for example, to help a mother who has lost custody of her children. I tell them straight up about my mother and they get all excited, because they realize immediately that I am someone who can understand what has happened to them and what they need to do to address the issues. Along with helping veterans, this is the principal area in which I hope to specialize in my own practice, and to engage in a lifetime of research and publication in this area. One day a woman’s boyfriend who is under surveillance can put 1000 dollars worth of illegal drugs in her purse for safekeeping, the next thing she knows she is off to jail for 20 years and has lost her children to the system. This has happened to way too many African-American women, in particular, who have suffered in a discriminatory fashion from laws that made penalties for crack cocaine many times higher than powdered cocaine, preferred by white people. This is a situation of egregious racial injustice and violence targeted against women of color that has only begun to be corrected in the second term of America’s first black president. I’m dedicated to using my practice to help mothers that have lost custody of their children to work towards the process of being awarded reunification. I believe that no woman wakes up and thinks about harming their children and that mothers who have had their children taken away deserve an opportunity to prove themselves, to prove that they can again be a good mother to their children.

My intense passion for family dynamics led me to work at a child recreation center promoting a positive environment for children, many of them at risk. I spent one year at XXXX Boys & Girls Clubs, working with diverse groups of children ranging in age from 5 to 12. Many if not most of these children were from single-parent families, placed in foster care, or cared for by a non-parent guardian who was a family member. One could see this in the way that they acted out, seeking attention from adult figures. Those children who had two parents at home acted out much less because they were not so starved for attention.

When I began working with these children, I wanted to perform tasks and play games that were relatable, familiar, interactive, fun, enjoyable, and free spirited: board games, card games, mathematical games, and memory activities. I did reading and coloring activities, oversaw and participated in sports, helped children with their homework, supervising and playing with them in the playground. Seating children for dinner and monitoring behavior during meals, I greeted parents and also supervised children in the locker room and pool area. As much as possible, I worked in groups with co-workers when engaged in group activities. I gave my all and learned a great deal about educational learning strategies and therapeutic activities for neglected and at risk children. I also learned a lot about safety, teamwork, and the appreciation of diversity.

I became painfully aware of my own issues as soon as I went to school, Veazie Street Elementary School, I remember being pulled out of my 1st grade class and being told that I was switching classrooms; that I was being placed in “special education.”  When I walked into my new classroom with a much smaller class I began to believe, to internalize a sense of myself as slow at best and stupid at worst, as a result of my learning disability. I struggled throughout my youth with issues of self-confidence, self-motivation, and it took me a very long time to learn to love myself unconditionally, despite my learning disability. Timid, and quiet, I suppressed my internal feelings and accepted my inferiority.

The teachers that worked with me were my support system, along with the support provided by my family. The teachers helped me to gain confidence little by little by developing new skills, learning to enjoy reading and solving math problems, spelling and writing practice. The collaboration between the teachers and my grandmother provided me with a sense of support and love that helped me to embrace life little by little. It was not until my final year of high school, however, that I was given the opportunity to attend ‘normal’ classes with no supervision or special assistance. I finally felt like my learning disability no longer defined me. I also came to believe in high school that I was capable not only of achieving, but of helping others to overcome the difficulties associated with a traumatic childhood.

 Thus, I want to dedicate my life to helping children who have special needs and face special challenges. I know what it feels like to be outcast by people, the sense of loneliness and unworthiness. I realized that I wasn’t able to see myself as worthy until I was encouraged by my teachers and grandmother to embrace and overcome the challenges that were preventing me from believing in my own worth, to prove to others that I was able to learn as well as anyone else. 

I see the existence of so many at-risk children, disproportionately children of color, to be the result of historical injustice. The other social justice area in which I am profoundly engaged is with our veterans, especially homeless veterans. I feel strongly that our homeless veterans should be given all of the help that they need to live life with dignity, beginning with a roof over their heads, dignified private space in which to heal and dwell, and a living wage doing the kind of work that they enjoy and are capable of doing. I combine my passion for children with a deep concern for the broad range of social justice issues surrounding our veterans, believing that veterans of all races are underserved, especially in light of the fact that they fought, or at least trained to fight for our country. Increasingly, I have come to see my study of children with special needs, on the one hand, and veteran’s issues on the other as related. I find refreshment by switching back and forth from one subject to another in my mind, at the same time that I note important, perhaps key connections. Many veterans, for example, chose to become soldiers in the first place as a result of dysfunction at home and childhood trauma—it is also a way to avoid the criminal justice system for many. The military is an escape from often difficult circumstances and a lack of direction. Unfortunately, for many, the military experience compounds trauma that is rooted in childhood, resulting in onion skin layers of PTSD. I look forward to becoming an advocate for better mental health services for veterans as a graduate student in your program.

My passion for working with oppressed communities was very much aroused as an undergraduate student in one of my social work courses that focused on poverty. This class gave me much needed insight on the barriers that oppressed people face and the significant impact that these barriers have on their lives. For my class project, I focused on the south side of Providence; and there is a great deal of oppression in this community. The central focus of my project was the large number of people sleeping (“living”) in the graveyard, couches placed on sidewalks, bus stops, people trying to rest and pass their time in front of local convenient stores and fast food restaurants. I searched for answers that could possibly help me to better understand why so many people were sleeping on the streets. The price tag on even the most modest of places to live, even sleep, was simply beyond their means; especially since the vast majority of the homeless people that I studied were ill.

The lower sector of south Providence consists of abandoned houses, poor landscaping and overgrown grass, for rent signs visible everywhere, alongside for sale signs, with only a few signs of development. The upper sector of south Providence fares better with some subsidized housing even being renovated with vibrant paint colors, one sees roof repairs, new stairs and decks installed. The southernmost sector of Providence, however, is in deep decay with an enormous homeless population. It is to that location that I seek to turn my attention as an MSW Professional. Amos House feeds and does what they can to help hundreds of people at the epi-center of our homelessness crisis in south Providence and I look forward to continuing to develop a lasting bond with this noble institution, in particular.

My greatest weakness is that I have to be careful with my emotions as a social worker. It is often a struggle for me to stop thinking about my clients in my free time, to escape, relax, and refresh. But as I mature as a social worker, I make progress with respect to this most difficult of challenges as well.

 I see myself as an exceptional candidate for acceptance into the MSW program at Rhode Island University for many reasons, not the least of which is my expertise in the area of south Providence. Most of all, I take pride in my critical thinking skills in the generation of survival strategies for those who face some of the most desperate of life circumstances. I have extensive experience in assessment and I am skilled at inspiring, empowering, and validating the feelings of my clients.

A fervent believer in the importance of self-criticism and evaluation, I judge myself harshly, always, so that I see constant progress in my own ways of thinking and behaving. I am very knowledgeable about debates and issues surrounding how to best implement the imperatives of social justice, humanitarian service, the dignity and worth of person, cultural competence and social diversity, etc.; the values that reflect my profession.

I meet the academic requirements for performance at a graduate level since my undergraduate GPA is over 3.0, currently 3.47. I’m a very hard working student, which is why I survived some very rigorous course in flying colors, including several difficult courses dealing with research and policy. The difficult academic challenges that I have faced so far have inspired me to dedicate increasing attention to developing my writing skills, alongside my thinking skills.

I thank you for considering my application to realize my fullest dream, to become the finest social worker that I can become.

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