During my time in the military, I attended University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) since it was one of the universities that had offices at most of the bases where I was stationed. UMGC offered credit for a lot of my military service studies, and it was an easy transition into the very beginning of my college career. After graduating from UMGC with a bachelor’s degree in Social Science, a graduate degree in social work seemed like a natural next step for furthering my education, and really aligned well with my interests, too. I aspired to work with military families, specifically at Walter Reed, where there is a world-renowned Wounded Warrior program. With that goal in mind, I began connecting with several social workers while I was stationed at the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) from 2008-2012, and it was here that my desire to become a social worker grew even stronger. My colleagues in the field consistently advised that obtaining a Masters in Social Work (MSW) with a concentration in Behavioral Health was essential and the best avenue for getting my foot in the door. So, as I was nearing the completion of my bachelor’s degree, I began looking into the different MSW programs available in Maryland, and fortunately came across the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s (UMB) School of Social Work, which is highly ranked.
Originally, I had selected UMB at the main campus in Baltimore since I had enrolled in the Community Advocacy and Social Policy program. However, after taking my first policy class and talking with my professors, I decided that a clinical focus within the School of Social Work was a better fit for me. Fortunately, UMB had an ancillary campus at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG), which is closer to where I live, in Damascus, Maryland and that’s how I came to find out about USG.
While I’m not involved in any official organizations on the USG campus, I have greatly benefited from the smaller class sizes which have allowed me to form a close network with classmates for support inside and outside of the classroom.
While in my program, I have completed two foundational internship/field placements — one at Vesta Inc. in Silver Spring and another with the Frederick County Mental Health Association. During my time at Vesta Inc., I had a caseload of six clients and conducted therapy virtually during the pandemic. Clients ranged in ages from teenagers to adults with varying levels of mental health diagnosis. Being that my foundation year was my first year in the social work program, I was really able to learn the basics of conducting therapy. Then in my advanced year at Frederick County Mental Health Association, my caseload increased substantially, to serve 22 clients on average, with a range in ages from early childhood to middle adulthood. At any given time, half of my clients were Spanish-speaking only and I would conduct therapy in Spanish, so it was a great experience all around and very rewarding.
My anticipated graduation is May 2022. Upon graduation, I would like to remain working within the military community, specifically with Spanish-speaking families since I am of Hispanic nationality and fluent in Spanish. Most Department of Defense agencies now require the highest level of social work licensure, a Licensed Certified Social Worker-Clinical (LCSW-C) in order to independently provide clinical social work services to individuals. With that, my ultimate goal would be to work at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, specifically at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE). But in the meantime while I work on becoming a LCSW-C, I plan on working at either Vesta Inc. or Frederick County Mental Health Association where I did my field placements — both are non-profits, and have a need for a bilingual therapist.