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MSW, Military Social Work, PTSD

XXXX University is my first choice for earning my MSW Degree because of the sheer excellence of your program and the fact that Los Angeles has always been my home. Born and raised in LA, my mother’s family is in Mexico and I have been visiting them each year throughout my entire life. Thus, between my mother and the support and love of her family on visits to Mexico, I am a thoroughly bilingual and bicultural Mexican-American. I see this as a great asset as a social worker, being able to function fully and to make creative contributions in both languages, multilingual and multicultural assistance to Latinos and non-Latinos alike, always with special attention to the underserved, many of whom speak predominantly Spanish, especially here in Southern California.

After high school I joined the army and was able to travel for the first time anywhere besides Mexico. I went to basic training first in Ft. Lee, Virginia and then Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. Coming from LA, the old US South was a culture shock for me, the sense of racism just under the surface, traditional attitudes, yet all of that mixed with the great diversity fostered by the military. I have learned many things and grown in important ways as a soldier that I feel strongly will help me to excel as a social work professional; especially in the area of cultural appreciation.

At first, life in the military was difficult and I sometimes felt scared and overwhelmed, even crying myself to sleep at night. After basic training I was stationed in South Korea for one year. Again, I experienced an entirely new culture and new military context abroad. The important thing, however, is the way in which my years in the military helped me to become stronger, wiser, and much more capable personally and professionally. After Korea, I was sent to Ft. Hood, Texas where I completed my service. In 2011 I earned my Associates Degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences from LA Community College and this gave me the confidence to go on and earn my Bachelors Degree in Social Work from California State University in LA in June of 2014. Since May of last year, 2015, I have been employed full time as a Case Manager at a mental health hospital and I absolutely love my job. Now, I am applying to study towards the MSW Degree so that I might advance professionally, assuming greater levels of responsibility and enhancing my contribution to my society.

I want to be able to provide the finest, state-of-the-art therapy to my clients who suffer from depression, schizophrenia, bi polarity, etc. I look forward to paying special attention in the years to come, both as a graduate student and beyond, to the issue of clients feeling "handicapped" by their diagnosis of mental illness. There is nothing that I love more than providing those who face mental health challenges with the best of tools to help them to learn to manage successfully and in some cases recover from a mental illness. I look forward to many decades of helping my patients to reach for their goals and to refuse to be held down by labels or diagnoses. I will empower them to take charge of their life and learn how to control their symptoms so they can be successful at whatever it is they dream of doing. Especially since I have served as a soldier, I would love to help veterans deal with their traumas, family and personal issues. I also have a deep and abiding interest in our older population and the special mental health challenges that they face. I may decide to specialize in the area of gerontology; my passion is so deep in this area that I have day-dreamed many times of someday starting and running a senior center or senior living program. I hope to always remain engaged directly with clients. I would like to someday be a director of a community mental health program; I would also very much enjoy teaching at some point in my career. Thus, I look forward to a diversity of social work experiences and I do not want to limit my interests at this time to one area of social work in particular. I want to always remain open to novelty, whatever it is that life brings my way. I was voted best soldier in my platoon during boot camp because I helped my battle buddy. She was short and petite and struggled a lot and I was always there to give her a hand. I made sure she was in her foxhole before I got into mine. I helped guide her through night time training because she could not see very well in the dark. Everyone voted for me not because I performed better than anyone else but because I took care of ‘Jane’ every step of the way. And it was truly my pleasure; I did not feel burdened at all. I couldn't imagine how hard it must have been for her during all our exercises and training. I believe that I am a strong candidate in the field of social work because of the way I treat others, giving my all to help them along. Most importantly, perhaps, I take pride in being a very good listener, always encouraging people to express themselves fully.

I especially enjoy learning about and from the older population. I have taken several classes dealing with the issues of older people and those are the ones that I enjoyed most of all. I became most excited when I learned that in the near future there will be a great need for social workers in the field of gerontology because all the baby boomers will retire and will need care. I have also studied the psychological aspects of aging, difficulties arising from the way in which our American culture tends to idolize youth.

Once I return to civilian life as a veteran myself, I will probably increasingly engage with veteran’s issues, especially concerning mental health and PTSD in particular. I was fortunate enough not to be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan. When I first arrived at Ft. Hood, Texas, my company was just returning from Iraq and I heard many battle stories, most of them about soldiers that never returned or did so largely destroyed physically and emotionally. I interacted with many soldiers that were clearly depressed, stressed, and anxiously waiting to finish their time and go home. Being in the military is a huge sacrifice and takes an enormous toll on soldiers, many if not most of them coming back with PTSD and struggling valiantly to rebuild a normal life. In the future, putting my MSW to work, I want to help veterans to heal their emotional battle wounds. One of the reasons why I am so passionate about veterans’ issues is my passion for helping homeless people, and so many of our veterans are homeless in America, most in need of mental health assistance. I have worked as a volunteer for the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. Each year we hit the streets of LA to find out how many homeless there actually are.

I may also do research on women veterans like myself at some point. It seems most unlikely that I will see combat in the short time that I have remaining as a woman in the military. But I want to stay abreast of developments as women in the military increasingly assume full combat roles; thus incurring the consequences that entails. Growing up in the company of mostly women resulted in my closeness to and appreciation for women. I feel a closer bond with women than men, especially in the military. Being in the military is tough, but being a woman in the military is even tougher. Working with predominantly men has always been difficult. Women soldiers sometimes feel they have to prove that they are strong enough to perform certain jobs. We have to deal with sexist comments. Some women have been raped. I will always be close to these issues.

Working at a Senior Center as a social work assistant has been the highlight so far of my professional life outside of the military up to that point. I helped seniors with medical insurance problems, immigration issues, application for services. Most of all I listened to them and encouraged them when they felt discouraged. I reminded them that they should still have dreams and goals at their age; that it is never too late to start a new hobby or a new relationship. These days as a case manager, I help my clients who are underserved by linking them to the resources that they need. Most of my clients come straight out of jail and need help getting settled back into our society. I help them get a bus pass, medical insurance, cell phone service, and most importantly of all, employment.

I joined the Army one month after graduating high school and have proudly served three years now. The experience and skills that I have gained during the time are something that I see as priceless, especially insofar as our military is a community of people working together and helping one another achieve a mission. This sense of professional community and mission is also an important aspect of Social work: teamwork and collaboration between therapists, psychiatrists, case managers, etc. While serving in the Army I was confronted with stressful, uncomfortable and at times dangerous situations. In Social work, I will experience very similar situations. I know first-hand what it's like to be separated from family and the difficulty of adjusting to new locations and rigorous demands. I can relate to people going through similar situations. Excelling in the military is a lot like excelling as a social worker; both require a great deal of selflessness and loyalty to one’s mission.

I thank you for considering my application to XXXX University.

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