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MSW, Behavior Analysis, Chinese, Spanish

My father was an immigrant to Ecuador from China and, as a child, I witnessed his struggles to adapt to a new culture and language and to navigate his way through various difficult bureaucratic obstacles. My concern about his plight made me determined to ‘make a difference’ in the lives of people who face challenges and difficulties in life. This led me to my current profession which is in behavioral therapy. I enjoy the work and believe that I am fulfilling a vital service. However, my work is highly specific and I have decided that I want to acquire the skills and knowledge that will enable me to help others in a more general and wide-ranging way, I am specifically interested in working with Hispanic clients suffering mental health problems.

I had some exposure to social work during my undergraduate studies. I participated in a summer internship program assisting in the development of surveys relating to the street vending, working with groups that aimed to legalize their activities in Los Angeles. I was also involved with a research project collecting data about factors affecting the health of the Latin American community. These experiences involved contact with people whose daily lives involve struggles and obstacles. I was impressed with their fortitude and good humor in the face of so many trials and with the caring attitude of social workers determined to assist them and whom I now wish to emulate.

I have carefully considered the qualities required of an excellent social worker and genuinely believe that I possess them and have the potential to develop them further. I have a genuine desire to help people to find effective ways of helping themselves. As an Applied Behavior Analysis Therapist, I am called upon to demonstrate many traits and characteristics that are transferable to the role of Social Worker. I am a good listener, I have determination, I am patient, I relate well to others, I have a creative and flexible approach to problem solving, and, not least, I have a sense of humor. I am also aware of the importance of being sensitive to non-verbal signals especially when supporting children and distressed adults

I am aware that social work calls for an optimistic but realistic attitude to possible outcomes and a willingness to cheerfully persevere where a client might be difficult to assist.  Social work obviously requires a very high degree of cultural awareness and sensitivity and as an ethnic Chinese who was raised in Ecuador, I believe that I can bring particular insights in this area of the work especially with the people I specifically desire to help. I would like to work within the mental service system to find solutions to issues involving mental and emotional health through assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. More specifically, I would like to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and specialize in the mental, emotional and behavioral disorders of Latino and other multicultural communities. Additionally, I would like to provide clinical services in medical and mental health settings in private practice, health care, outpatient, and inpatient treatment settings, as well as, working in socially oriented settings with diverse populations while utilizing cultural competence when interpreting social, personal, environmental, and health information specific to these communities.

My work as an ABA Therapist involves one to one therapy in the homes of child clients who are on various points of the autism spectrum and primarily in the Latino community. It is vital that I ‘customize’ interventions based on each child’s individual skills, needs, interests, preferences and family situation. This involves high level observational skills and careful reading, recording and evaluation of relevant information relating to behavior in the child’s environmental context. It is vital to form and maintain constructive relationships with parents/carers to achieve the goals of shaping behaviors that will ultimately result in improved, permanent, functional change.

I believe that my professional experience provides an excellent foundation for the study and successful practice of social work. I was appointed shift leader when working in a restaurant. While being trained, I noticed that one manager would instruct some employees to ‘clock out’ for their 30 minute break but to continue working and delay the actual break until he gave them leave to take it, usually when the restaurant was closed. I queried this situation with the manager and was informed that she was unwilling to permit scheduled breaks when the restaurant was busy but that those affected were happy to take them later. I asked some staff members their opinion and discovered that they were far from happy but were unwilling to risk the wrath of the manager. Clearly the arrangement violated the company’s own rules and, further, was a violation of the Labor Code. Taking this matter to senior management was obviously not going to endear me to the manager and it seemed probable that my new promotion would be jeopardized and relationships put at risk. I took a couple of days to consider the situation and then decided that my promotion was unimportant in comparison with the violation of rights that was occurring and took the matter to the general manager who resolved it.

Two of my most rewarding experiences working with underserved communities occurred   during my years as an undergraduate student. During one of my classes, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in community-based research with the Latinos population of Los Angeles; this research analyzed how ethnic stereotypes affected Latino students in their academic trajectory. Through this opportunity, not only was I able to connect and understand the deep-seated issues affecting Latinos in more meaningful ways, it also made me realize how institutionalized racism directly resulted in disparities in education, income, employment, and health care all of which detrimentally affected the well-being of these individuals.

Similarly, through an internship with the UCLA Labor Center, I was able to study the issues of street vendors in L.A. and the socio-economic contexts that impacted the every-day lives of informal, immigrant workers and their families, and also made me realize the need to implement policies that could provide a licensing process for vendors to sell foods without the fear of criminalization. According to the Office of Minority Health, the incidence of psychological distress among the Hispanic community is significantly higher than that for the white population. This is regarded as primarily resulting from the pressures of living in relative poverty. However the white population is much more likely to seek and receive treatment for mental health problems than are Hispanics.

Reluctance to seek professional medical advice is much more evident in Hispanic communities for all medical conditions and so it does not appear to be the case that any perceived stigma in reporting mental health problems is at the root of the situation, as it may be in other minority populations, though it may have some effect.The overall problem of the need to encourage members of the Hispanic community to seek professional intervention when necessary is one that requires a concerted effort by many agencies over a long period. However the Social Worker who is aware of the situation is in a position to encourage clients and others with whom they come into professional contact and who display symptoms of mental ill-health to seek professional intervention and to assist in overall efforts to this end by agencies doing so.

Most of a Social Worker’s time is spent interacting with clients, their families and their communities and one of the reasons why I chose to apply to this particular MSW program is because of the emphasis on the application of theoretical knowledge through social work practice and community-based research. I understand that I am expected to complete 60 semester units, as well as, a total of 1,000 hours of field education (seminar and internship). Fortunately, my job as an ABA Therapist allows significant flexibility in my schedule that will enable me to prioritize academic work and internship hours. I plan to work closely with the agency to determine the dates and times that will maximize my career learning experience, while also remaining an important asset to them.

It is clear to me that creating a well-organized schedule can be the difference between a manageable graduate school experience and an overwhelming one. Through navigating the MSW Department website, attending information meetings, going over previous MSW Academic calendars, etc. I think that doing some research in advance and utilizing all the available resources the program offers is important, because it will allow me to set my priorities, understand other available options and balance both my workload and other responsibilities successfully.

I understand that most of the work is done outside of the classroom. Therefore developing a strong relationship with my academic advisors, faculty mentors, agency supervisors and other graduate students is crucial since they can provide the professional and personal support needed to achieve my goals and aspirations in this program. Tailoring the coursework to my career interests is another way to ensure my success in the program. For instance, taking electives that will complement my personal interests and career goals can provide me with the kind of breadth and depth needed to find my unique path to success. Lastly, while I think it is really important to establish a clear schedule to succeed academically, effectively organizing my time will allow me to maintain a good mental health and keep a positive outlook on my graduate school experience.

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