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MSW, Child Welfare, Poverty, Homelessness

I feel strongly that I am the best fit for your MSW Program at XXXX (XXX) because I feel strongly that we are in need of social workers who live, think, work, and practice at the local level, and your educational institution stands at the center of the community that I know and love. I am currently an undergraduate student at XXX and I have come to love our academic community here and hope to be able to continue to blossom here at XXX as a graduate student. I also very much respect and appreciate the explicit focus of your program not only on advocacy but also “the achievement of social and economic justice.”

Upon graduation from high school in 2002, I attended a community college, not yet sure concerning which career path to follow. I later transferred to XXXX as a part time student where I studied at the same time that I worked 50+ hours a week to pay for my education related expenses. This coming May, 2016, I will graduate with my Bachelors Degree in Psychology. I am currently enrolled in two classes which are helping me to think in more sophisticated ways about social work, one in public health and the other in professional assertiveness and self-care.

In high school, I volunteered at the local soup kitchen and my local church making Thanksgiving baskets for needy families and aiding with Christmas presents. Most importantly, however, is the fact that I have over 11 years experience working in human services at a residential school for more than 300 children with special behavioral issues in the NYC area.

My parents divorced when I was a toddler as my father was psychically, verbally, and emotionally abusive to my mom. An alcoholic, he also abused drugs and suffered from several mental health disorders. My mother would later remarry and my step father became an important part of my life; I called him dad. We were a large family with a half-sister, a biological brother, two step brothers and a step sister; all but my half-sister were older. My upbringing was in a suburban, middle class family and I had basically a good childhood; yet I missed the relationship with my biological father. He moved to Vermont so I didn’t see him often. As a young child, I was unable to understand the reasons why my mom didn’t allow us to visit him (his drug and alcohol use) and I resented my mother for this.

By the time I was in adolescence, I was wrestling with my own problems, suffering from body image issues, anorexia, and bulimia; this caused me to miss out on many important events and stifled my emotional development in high school. I felt so ill from not eating at my graduation that I almost fainted, walled in by my eating disorder I wasn’t enjoying or living life to the fullest in any way shape or form. These painful memories aroused my great interest in psychology, human behavior, and therapy, now coming together in my profound desire to devote my professional lifetime to helping other young people, especially girls, to overcome their fears and address their body-image issues in more successful and timely ways than I was able to accomplish as a teenager. Eating disorders are difficult to understand unless you have been there. In several important ways it is like alcoholism, seldom is one entirely cured, and one always must remain on guard against reoccurrence. Like the struggle of the alcoholic to stay sober, and the support that many of them receive from AA, similarly, those young people who suffer from eating disorders have much to learn and benefit from the experiences of those individuals, especially when they are counselors and/or social workers, who have struggled themselves with the same issues and have developed a tool kit of resources for successful behavior control. I have continued to struggle throughout my adult life until today in this regard. My primary salvation is staying busy, working full time, attending school, along with an active involvement with a variety of student/social functions.

I have also learned a great deal about many of the issues that are central to social work – much of it painful at least at first - as a result of my rekindled relationship with my biological father. It can be so very difficult to be a parent to your parent. The sustained drug and alcohol use of so many years has even damaged his brain functioning. I labor to understand his choices and his lifestyle and I am constantly reminding myself that what he has is a disease. He didn’t choose to be the way he is. My struggle to have a relationship with my father has helped me to cultivate greater empathy for individuals who suffer from mental health issues and my own experiences have made me feel very certain that I want to work with troubled children in the future as an MSW professional, caring for them and helping them to cope.

Both of my grandparents were extremely giving and played a huge and very positive role in my life. They were my earliest heroes because they worked together at local soup kitchens, preparing and donating food baskets and blankets to shelters. My grandfather was diagnosed with cancer while I was in high school so I moved in with my grandparents to help care for him by providing daily living essentials and care until he passed away a year later. They taught me such valuable lessons in life, most of all the central importance of being a kind, empathetic person. These are the qualities that I have worked the hardest to cultivate and in which I take the greatest pride.

I feel strongly that my area of primary interest, eating disorders among young people, is a social issue of profound importance; and very near and dear to my heart. The ideals that are thrust upon young women and girls, especially the equation of skinny and beautiful, do not affect men and boys to nearly such an extent. We need to empower women and young girls to take full control over their bodies, lives, and destinies by learning to recognize social and gender injustice and to love and cherish themselves for who they are.

I am very much concerned with gender inequality, especially with respect to education and women’s rights. I am saddened and angered by what I have learned about lack of access to educational opportunities for girls, especially in the Developing World, and this is one of the things that I look forward to helping to change in the future. Providing girls with an education helps break the cycle of poverty: educated women are less likely to marry early and against their will; less likely to die in childbirth; more likely to have healthy babies; and are more likely to send their children to school. I feel strongly that everyone deserves the right to equal education of high quality. In addition to barriers to educational opportunities for girls throughout the world, I also look forward to a lifetime of engagement with the issue of violence against women, working to prevent it and to help victims in their recovery.

I am very much concerned with the welfare of children, issues of childhood poverty, malnutrition, safe drinking water, sanitation, and housing, the way that even basic needs are not being met for so many children across the globe. My own philosophy and sentiment in this regard is best expressed by Nelson Mandela: “Safety and security don’t just happen; they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.” Childhood poverty is a global issue.

My work as a programming coordinator at a special needs behavioral residential school outside of Boston, Massachusetts has afforded me the opportunity of to work with individuals of lower socio-economic status in a most culturally diverse workplace and to increase my familiarity with a broad range of social welfare issues. We serve one of the most vulnerable of all populations, special needs children and adults. The experiences of the students and their families have been very eye opening for me; and I have learned a great deal from all of them.

Perhaps my greatest strength is my dedication to my clients, students and their families. Working with individuals with special needs can be very difficult and stressful, yet also extremely rewarding. I am empathetic and a great listener. I whole heartedly pour all of my being into my work and I am always eager to learn new things. My time management skills and ability to multitask are also among my greatest strengths. The one challenge I see myself facing is not being able to not help enough. Realizing I can only do so much to help others, my work often becomes my life which can be detrimental at times. I sometimes find myself putting my work ahead of my family and friends which can have negative consequences.

As a student in your program and beyond, I would like to continue working with children, some of the most vulnerable members of our community. I plan to continue working in my current position. Earning my MSW will enable me to provide more culturally sensitive assistance to my students and their families who come from such diverse backgrounds, cultures, languages, and to gradually assume greater levels of responsibility.

My ability to work full time 50+ hours a week and simultaneously attend school full time demonstrates my ability to manage my time and make the most of each moment. Nevertheless, these long hours at work have had a negative effect on my grades, as a result of juggling so much – helping to care for my step-father who has cancer on top of it all -, I only have a 2.8 GPA at this time, but it is on the rise. As an MSW student, if accepted into your program, I plan to greatly reduce the number of hours that I commit to at my current position.

I thank you for consideration of my application.

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