Social work is an interesting profession. There is much to be said about a person that devotes their life to children and families in need. The most frequent question I get asked is “What does a school social worker do exactly?” Honestly it depends on the school level the social worker is placed to be able to answer that question.
I began my career at CIS as a Project Manager (PM) in an elementary school where I had a case load of 90. I worked very closely with the children’s families, held many self esteem and social skills groups (around 13) and opened my office to individual counseling throughout the day. Unfortunately at the elementary level there are frequent encounters of abuse, extreme poverty, hunger and family eviction.
After two years of working with CIS, I was able to move up to a Program Director. I have loved the change but it is a different social work perspective. Instead of working closely with the children and getting involved with their lives on a personal level, which is direct practice SW, I am working hard to ensure that the PM’s I supervise are offering the services the students need. Not only to enhance the lives of their kids but to help ensure we are doing what we have contracted with the state to do and correctly. It is more administrative social work.
One of the experiences I have enjoyed the most this year is my learning curve working with a high school program. I was assigned to oversee Polytechnic High School where the school and the particular area of Fort Worth have various problems. Working at the high school level is a big difference; their problems are individually based such as pregnancy, physical/mental health issues, cutting, working to help support their family, drugs and gangs to name a few. I met a lot of great students this year; some struggled more than others and some overcame obstacles I could only dream up.
There was one student in particular that the PM and I met, worked with, guided, and deemed this years “success story.” A student is considered a “success story” when they have overcome situations that would otherwise lead to high school drop out. This student was able to tell her story at our annual celebration luncheon where one of our favorite CIS advocates, Deborah Ferguson, was a keynote speaker. The story touched Deborah’s heart and she felt like her story needed to be told to a larger audience. CIS was asked to share her story for a Channel 5 news segment which will hopefully be aired soon! We filmed at Polytechnic, where she went to school and it was neat to see what goes on behind the scenes. Deborah is such a nice lady and very approachable. When we finished saying our goodbyes we noticed a group of people standing outside. Two ladies pointed to her and yelled “Oh my gosh, It’s the lady from the news!” She gave hugs and was very kind to her fans. It was neat to be able to work with people who are looked up to by so many local residents. We appreciate the relationship we have with Channel 5 news; their belief in us is inspiring.
I want you leave you all with this: If you want happiness for a lifetime – help the next generation.
Ashley Parrish, Program Director