I am currently enrolled in the Masters of Social Work program at the University of Southern California, with a concentration in Mental Health and a sub-concentration in School Social Work. I graduated from University of Washington in June of 2014 with a double major in ECFS and Psychology.
Growing up, I was always interested in working with children. I took an ECFS course during my sophomore year at UW, which introduced me to the importance of high-quality early childhood experiences in promoting lifelong success across all aspects of development. I spent my undergraduate years volunteering in a number of agencies and organizations to determine which area of the field I was most interested in. I was able to volunteer at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Seattle Children's Hospital, Community Day School Association, the EduCare Early Learning Center, and the Seattle Children's Research Institute, which introduced me to the complex facets in the field of child development. Through my service learning and volunteer experiences, I focused my interests towards preparing for a career in child and family mental health counseling.
My senior year service-learning placement was at the Seattle Children's Hospital at Overlake in the Department of Psychiatry. This was one of my favorite learning opportunities, and gave me a chance to network with professionals in the field. It also gave me hands-on experience in the field of pediatric mental health that I would not have been able to get inside the classroom. With the guidance and mentorship from the Seattle Children's Hospital staff, I made the decision to pursue my Masters in Social Work and eventually become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
Upon graduation, I enrolled in the Masters of Social Work program at USC. The program also has a field-experience component, and I am participating in an internship at local school district. In my current position I provide therapy and counseling for elementary and middle school students and their families. I am so appreciative of my service learning in ECFS, which gave me direct experience working with some of the vulnerable populations that I work with today. This has helped me become a more effective social worker in my practice with children and families of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, as well as those experiencing adverse experiences such as poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and mental illness.
If I could offer any advice to current or prospective ECFS students, I would recommend that they use their undergraduate years to explore the field in as many ways as possible. Get coffee with professors and mentors to hear about their experiences, ask them questions, and seek their advice. Identify your own interests, talents, and strengths, which will help you to identify which field of ECFS is the best fit for you. Take advantage of the amazing staff and professors of the ECFS department, and the wealth of knowledge and experience that they have to offer.