A Student Perspective on the Certificate for Social Work with Latinos/as

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The certificate program consists of 4 mandatory classes and a field placement that includes at least 30% time in Spanish. The four classes are:

1. Critical Perspectives in the Latino Context: taught by Oscar Samoza, this class is a great way to get a taste for using Spanish academically and to draw upon the wealth of knowledge Oscar brings to the table. Less focused and structured than other classes, this was also a great space to get to know classmates and hear about Oscar’s background. This was on class that was always a joy to go to. Oscar is open to discussing anything anyone may have curiosity about, including slang and Latino film. PMX6

2.Social Work and Mexican Culture: this class is the trip to Puebla, MX. I know in the future students will have the option of going to Costa Rica which honestly saddens me a bit. Especially if you are invested in the politics of immigration and working with Latinos/as in Colorado, Mexico seems indispensable. The two weeks in Puebla ended up affecting me very profoundly as a Mexican-American and as a social worker. While the immersion part of the trip is really up to everyone in the room (and at times was difficult to keep up), the cultural immersion and educational components were extremely impactful in deepening my understanding of US-Mexico relations and the experience of everyday people.

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3. Social Work Interventions with Latinos/as: this was a great way to continue connecting with students from the trip as well as others passionate about affecting change with/for this population. This course covered a wide variety of topics and lent itself to the clinical context, particularly challenging in Spanish. The guest speakers were fabulous and the site visits worthwhile. This might be tough for my fellow macro folks but helpful nonetheless.

4. Social Development in Latin America: I have yet to take this course and will updated when I do! So far, I have heard good things and know it will be offered over two weekends in English.

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Aside from the academic aspect of this program, there is a strong community-building component. Personally, I had hoped to make stronger ties at GSSW, however that can be a challenge with the quarter system where there are long breaks and extreme bouts of busy-ness. The certificate program was exactly what I needed and I feel very close to those in the program. The two people I roomed with are people I spend a lot of time with now.

In addition to classroom learning and friendship, the certificate coordinator, Stephen Von Merz is a really great support system. His experience and willingness to share expertise is invaluable. I personally have gained a lot from him being my adviser and have come to consider him a mentor.
PMX2All in all, the Certificate for Social Work with Latinos/as has been extremely formative in my graduate education, shaping my passions, cementing my language abilities, and linking me to amazing individuals.

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The Work-School Balance

As a work-study student in the admissions office, many prospective students ask me if people work in the program, if it’s possible, and if not, how on earth does anyone make ends meet?

When I first came to GSSW for orientation, I remember worrying about my future schedule, consisting of work-study, internship, class time, and a part -time work schedule. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do it and wondered if anyone else was experiencing the same sense of hesitancy. On that first day, I sat next to a woman who, it turned out, had a full-time job, kids, and was in the full-time 2-year program! I decided to keep my little worries to myself as it became clear that others had similar if not more demanding schedules.

What I’ve learned over the past year and a quarter is that, yes, working and going to school is possible. Not only is it possible, many of my classmates make it happen. We are all under the stress of an intensive program but we all also need to eat and have shelter. So, my answer to prospective students is “yes, it is in fact more than possible to work and go to school.”

For those of you entering the two-year program full-time, I would suggest keeping a part-time work schedule. I find that if my work-time exceeds 20 hours a week, I become a bit frazzled. I also think it’s important to find jobs that are somewhat flexible; after all, during the quarter, you may need to pull an all-nighter or cut your hours a bit, but for the rest of the year, your schedules open up. Lastly, I would remind you that you are not alone and that many in this program are both going to school and trying to sustain life (and that both are important to succeed).

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In solidarity,
Julie