Admissions essay to The University of Texas – Austin
(Please keep this response to FOUR double spaced typed pages)
How did you become interested in social work? What relationship or experiences–personal, education or professional–caused or confirmed your interest in this profession? What indicated to you a need for professional education? Students are expected to understand and respect human diversity, promote social justice and social welfare through the empowerment of at-risk populations, and demonstrate a commitment to the values and ethics of the social work profession. What is your understanding of social work? What has contributed to your understanding of and desire to work with disadvantaged groups? What groups or issues would you find challenging? Discuss those personal qualities and abilities you feel will be helpful to you in the social work profession. What do you currently see as your strengths and areas of improvement? Discuss your professional interests and goals. Indicate which fields of practice, client groups, and special social problems interest you and why. What contributions do you hope to make as a professional social worker?
Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist
Present day, I work at a reputable non-profit in Austin, TX as a Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist
I am funded by a grant from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, with matching funds provided through the City of Austin
Our prevention program uses six prevention strategies to help youth resist alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs: prevention education classes and groups, alternative activities that promote a “no use” message, substance abuse prevention presentations, information dissemination, community-based processes to coordinate services between organizations, and appropriate referrals to other services as needed. The goal is to enhance the resiliency of youth served by increasing protective factors (such as participation in pro-social activities and optimism about the future) and decreasing risk factors (such as a low level of self-regulation skills).
Our prevention program incorporates the Developmental Assets Approach in order to promote healthy youth development. Strengthening external assets such as caring school climate, positive peer relationships, and supportive adult role models as well as strengthening internal assets such as social skills (emotion management, impulse control, problem-solving) development, bonding with school and their community, and developing positive self-identity (recognizing their strengths, sense of purpose), better prepare youth to successfully manage challenges.
I provide class and group substance abuse prevention education to elementary and middle school-aged youth using evidenced-based curricula at identified schools and community sites in areas that report high crime rates, and whose student populations are characterized by high rates of mobility and economically disadvantaged families.
I use an evidence-based curriculum whose goal is to reduce risk factors and enhance protective factors related to alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use among youth in grades K-12. The curriculum is designed to develop five essential life skills: (1) goal setting; (2) decision making; (3) bonding with pro-social others; (4) identifying and managing emotions; and (5) communicating effectively. Drug and alcohol information are interwoven into the curriculum lessons. Strategies and methods to build family and school connectedness reinforce the healthy social and emotional development of youth.
I also provide activities and presentations to both youth and adults where class and/or group prevention education is offered. The purpose of these activities is to provide youth and adults with opportunities that endorse a “no use” message and to promote a sense of belonging and bonding with peers, family, school, and community. Examples of such activities include but are not limited to: activities and games that focus on teaching or reinforcing skills learned or taught through the curriculum, activities and games that teach leadership skills and promote teambuilding and peer bonding.
Presentations create awareness and knowledge of alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drug use, abuse, and addiction, its harmful effects and consequences on individuals, families, and communities, and laws as they apply specifically to minors.
Interactive teaching methods encourage youth to bond with pro-social peers and engage youth through role-play, cooperative learning, games, small group skills-development activities, and class discussions
Support groups strengthen social and personal skills and provide substance abuse education for youth who are identified as living in adverse family situations, displaying gaps in coping and social skills or showing early indicators of antisocial attitudes and behaviors.
The goals of the substance abuse prevention program are:
-Improve class, school, and community site atmosphere by fostering an environment where youth and adults listen to and respect others’ ideas, opinions, feelings, and respond to feedback
-Improve academic environment by decreasing the amount of time teachers spend addressing behavior/discipline problems with youth
-Improve social interactions among youth through teaching youth positive social skills
-Increase ability by youth to control behavior, manage anger, and handle problems by teaching youth skills related to these areas, and providing continual reinforcement for using these skills throughout the day
Roles occupied outside of current job description at current place of employment
A member of the racial equity and inclusion committee- spearhead the development of such collective/effort in the organization; plan and coordinate racial equity efforts with CEO and two co-workers of organization; plan and coordinate agency wide racial equity book clubs (e.g., White Fragility) and workshops (e.g., People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond)
I graduated in May of 2013 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and sociology. I have invested interests in social/racial justice and serving under resourced communities of color.
Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society
the oldest academic honor society in the United States and is often described as its most prestigious honor society, due to its long history and academic selectivity. Phi Beta Kappa aims to promote and advocate excellence in the liberal arts and sciences, and to induct the most outstanding students of arts and sciences at American colleges and universities
The organization has chapters in about 10% of American higher learning institutions, and about 10% of these schools’ Arts and Sciences graduates are invited to join the society
Ronald E. McNair Scholar
Participated in higher education pipeline program
•Designed and obtained approval of Institutional Review Board protocol.
•Explored African American racial identity and academic achievement using the 2008 General Social Survey.
•Analyzed data through scientific software SPSS.
•Presented quantitative analysis at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln and the University California, Berkeley.
Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experience (UCARE) Grant
An additional higher education pipeline program
Supports undergraduates to work one-on-one with faculty research advisors in research or creative activities
•Conducted semi-structured focus groups, recorded, anonymized, transcribed, and coded responses with twenty-five African American young adults to further investigate the perceived relationship between African American college students’ black racial identity and influences on college achievement
•Developed senior thesis, entitled “The Perceived Relationship between Black Racial Identity and Academic Achievement at a Predominantly White Institution”
More about me:
-I am a black woman and therefore a member of a group that is underrepresented in graduate education and the field of social work
-I was raised in a military family; father was in the Air Force for 20 years
-Servant leadership is my leadership philosophy
-I firmly believe that all people should be treated with dignity and viewed in terms of their potential
-Burning passion and ability to serve youth (edifying and empowering youth to make healthy choices)
-I was raised with two parents- mom and dad- two brothers and one sister
-Growing up I constantly asked questions and people said I cared ‘too much’ about others
-I have served as a Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist for 4 years; just over two years at my current organization and for a year in a smaller non-profit in TX
-My desire is to serve under resourced communities of color
-I want to amplify the voices of historically marginalized people
-I understand the importance of serving from an anti-racist lens
-Deeply invested in dismantling racism
-Posses cultural humility
-value diversity (partnering with others to advocate for others and commit to fixing systemic power imbalances)
-see myself as a life-long learner (engaged in a lifelong process of self-evaluation, and learning and growth)
-self-aware and conscious of my own bias, so that it doesn’t manifest in an adverse manner in the services I provide
-Flexibility/ Adaptability- At any given moment, working with, as opposed to against the many variables of any given circumstance/moment (e.g., During a classroom presentation a student appeared disengaged and served as a distraction- as he was making loud noises and touching other students. Therefore, discreetly I asked the student for assistance with the lesson. I informed him that his role would be using the clicker to transition from one topic or ppt. slide to the next. The student appeared elated that I chose him to contribute such a role in the presentation and I was excited that the presentation wasn’t further interrupted)
-Demonstrated ability to manage time and schedule efficiently (For example, when scheduling services in the beginning of the semester, I assess what agency goals need to be met and what services are needed in the community to schedule services accordingly and utilize time efficiently)
-Ability to establish priorities (according to relative importance) and deadlines (e.g., prioritize task given- knowing the difference between the level of importance of given tasks that I am assigned to complete- responding to an e-mail regarding group scheduling for the next semester vs. a student referral- as it concerns student drug possession; maintaining consistent, thorough, documentation for provided services to ensure deadlines are met
-Strong interpersonal, verbal and written communication skills (e.g., demonstrating this behavior when working with co-workers on presentations or projects within the agency and when working with school personnel (counselors), community agencies, families, and the general public)- culturally sensitive (responding with respect and empathy to people of all nationalities, classes, races, religions, ethnic backgrounds and other groups in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values their worth) assertive, professional, respectful, and responsive
-Strong critical, analytical, and problem solving skills (e.g., when a student shares sensitive information in group or class setting and responding or behaving in a professional/responsive (addressing the concern in a reasonable time frame) manner; being patient, professional, sensitive, and responsive to parents who are resistant to or inquisitive about the services, as it concerns their child being in or involved in group or attending classroom presentations)
-Strong leadership skills (e.g., leading by example- conducting myself in way that positively reflects the agency-in addressing conflict, in dress, and in speech)
-Weakness: Becoming overly committed or invested in service- however- I consciously seek support (from colleagues, friends, family, and professionals in the field or related field) and engage in self-care practices (meditation, prayer, exercise) to maintain and support my overall wellness and to strike a balance between professional and personal life.