Social workers are a big part of the T.C. community. They work hard to help students with both personal and school related matters and go above and beyond what is in their job description. There are many aspects to the job as a social worker that most students don’t even realize.
“The social worker job in a school is basically three main things, you’ve got crisis intervention, then there’s truancy and assisting the child harmed,” said David Wynne of his job as a social worker for 10th grade. Social workers both in T.C. and around Alexandria work tirelessly to make sure students have everything they need to succeed in school. This can mean making home visits and sometimes having to take students to court if they are having severe attendance problems. “If you’re a student, and there’s something prohibiting you from being the best you can be, my job is to get you to where you need to be,” said Wynne.
Though school social workers are linked directly to the school and work out of it, they are involved all over the city. Social workers at an elementary school here in Alexandria are working to create a program for younger kids with fire fighters and police to go one-on-one with students there to help them succeed. “Every single social worker in this building and the other ones have got something that you don’t know about them that they do that’s not in their job description, and the minute you think ‘oh yeah I’m doing a great job’… you learn about something else that your co-worker did to win a grant or start an after school program,” Wynne said.
Social work doesn’t just involve academic work; it can also deal with personal issues like working with students who are unable to realize their full potential. “[A] difficult aspect of the job is to witness the large number of students who do not realize their personal value, self worth or amazing potential. Some continue to live with a deep sense of helpless, sadness, or apathy about life and have given up on themselves and others,” said Tara Newton, another T.C. social worker. “This is very unfortunate because the truth is that each student here is special and gifted. It is evident that each one has something special and wonderfully unique to contribute to life.” Many social workers feel that one of the saddest parts of their job is dealing with students who are unable to work towards their full potential.
But social work isn’t all negative; there are many rewarding and positive aspects of being a social worker. “There are so many rewarding aspects and benefits to the field of social work. But I think one of the most rewarding part of the job is the opportunity to serve hurting people,” Newton said. “Another great aspect of this job is the opportunity to work at school with such a diverse, creative team of students and staff!” Being a social worker comes with many challenges, but some of them can be as minor as a change in venue.
Since the commencement of T.C.’s transformation last year, social workers have seen the changes first hand. Most were relocated to closet-sized rooms after their offices inside the Academies were given to the new counselors hired by the school. The change in location has come with a fresh approach; as social workers, these Titans deal mostly with unfortunate situations but are now focusing on the positive aspects of their work instead of the negative. Joseph Ernest explained that social workers “have always really focused on attendance, but this year we want to see percentages of students attending school rather than skipping.”
A highlight of the transformation in regard to social work has been the increased attention given to students who are struggling or are unable to graduate. Wynne admitted that he believes “[T.C] has done more to help kids academically this year than ever since I’ve been here.” Though social workers are not technically responsible for academics, their counseling often motivates struggling students to achieve better grades in their classes. Even in the unfortunate situations in which students are not be able to complete their schooling at T.C., the social workers continue to assist them in accomplishing their ambitions. “We’re developing alternate goals for students who will not graduate,” said Ernest.
For the social workers at T.C., the heart wrenching stories and difficult situations they are faced with are rewarded with the success of students accomplishing something they never thought possible, be it graduating or overcoming a complicated family situation. In the words of T.C. social worker Newton, “it is an unexplained joy to watch an individual…become empowered, resilient, resourceful, or receive stability and emotional healing.”