Things I Wish I Was told in Graduate School


I wish I was told in Graduate school and even in undergrad to some extent the real meaning of getting a college degree. I was told it meant opportunity, a big salary, not working in food service and autonomy. While much of that is true to some extent, I have learned there is larger picture as well. I am just speaking from my experience, and I hope this falls in line with the general consensus.

Obtaining a Graduate Degree in Social Work or in Counseling is NOT for… the money, fame or status. People who get into the career are in it as a way to help others, not to become the next Dr. Phil or therapist to the stars. With that being said, a person can do those things, but this is generally not the goal for most therapy minded or macro system minded individuals. My reasons for getting a Masters of Social Work was around the concept of social justice and being in the community.  As was the case with many in my graduating class, I did not expect to make very much money.

I wish I was told that money is the way companies start defining your worth. Are you a clinician who is worth $40,000 or do these companies value you above or below that industry standard? What are you willing to accept and what is the cost/benefit analysis of this process? The workplace has more to offer than just the sticker price and the same goes for college.

While in Graduate school I was able to explore, and talk to others and bounce ideas off of really fantastic community members, professors, mentors, and supervisors. Graduate school was about making contacts, building a network, and starting from zero to work my way up.

I wish I was reminded that the people in the room with me will be my co-workers, bosses, and referral sources for the future. 10 years in the future the people you graduate with will be the movers and shakers of your area.

Internships and practicum taught me how to advocate and market clients’ skills. I was taught to look deep into the experiences of others to build them up, inspire hope and promote long standing change.

I wish I was Informed that those advocacy skills are universal- I have the ability to use them to uplift and inspire myself as well as the ability and right to make people listen.

Working in mental health for the past 3 years and being close friends with the NASW Code of Ethics have put me face to face with the Client’s Bill of Rights. The Right to dignity and respect as a person, the right to be involved in their treatment, the right to privacy, and the right to change providers to name a few.  Knowing and advocating for these rights have made me a better and more trustworthy clinician. 

I wish someone would have pointed out that these rights are rights all people have.  If a person in one’s personal life or in one’s work life do not respect the rights you have as a person, you have the right to change the provider of that friendship/job/ ect.

Being a therapist, friend, a daughter, a sister, and a person in their twenties is exhausting. A person’s twenties are all about transitions and discovering your path and most importantly creating a community of people who love and support you. The hardest part is redefining yourself after graduation. Some people may have been like me and had the definitions of student/ social worker for the past few years, realizing that there is little time for friendships and socializing while entrenched in the college system.

Balance is something new clinicians need to find. Balance is one of the hardest things particularly with the system we are a part of.  Are you a social worker/person or a person/Social worker? Which cap do you put on first or are you still trying to find the social worker within or have you found that person, meaning are you still able to be a part of a two-way conversation and a two-way relationship rather than the person who solves everyone else’s problems?

Graduate school and post-grad life is difficult and challenging, but so is life in general. The final thing I wish I was told in grad school is that patience is a virtue.  However, patiently waiting for something to change and for the system to improve for your job to get better robs you of the power you have as a person, but it robs you as an educated person with networks and support.

Dig deep and learn who the person and the social worker inside you are, and define yourself. Define your career and do not let another person, company, or corporation steal that from you. Vision your future, and the ideal career path and realize that it will not happen tomorrow, or even 10 months from now, but slowly start chipping away at what you want and erode the barriers in your path.

The Many Faces of Latino

Time Is Now Immigration Rally in DC

When I was about 14 years old, I started to really notice that my family was different from others. I always knew I did not fit the stereotypical Hispanic or Colombian image. I am not 5’3’’ with brown skin and curly hair. I am 5’ 7’’ with straight hair and pale freckled skin which means no one ever took me for Hispanic. We did not face as much as teasing however we were called “wetbacks”, “Drug Traffickers” and “Mexicans”, and many Latinos are called far worse. Not to say for us being called “Mexican” was bad, but we were not from Mexico.

Latinos come in all shapes and sizes and colors much like in the African-American culture. The lighter skin color a Latino has society perceives them to be the more attractive. The media messages about Latinos from political media and entertainment sources seem to paint a picture of the cartels who traffic drugs, angry women who are abused by their husbands, and Macho husbands who drink too much and party all of the time.  Others perceive us as immigrants who will cross the border and bankrupt the economy because they send money to their homeland in order to bring drugs into the country. What can the average listener or viewing audience get from these messages?

Are violence and drug abuse only common among Latinos? Is domestic violence normal in Latino families? When thinking about what it means to be Latino in the United States. First, People need to understand the origin of the word Latino and what it really means. Latino means being a descendant of Latin America which is comprised of Mexico, Central America, and South America. Hispanic is another term which is often used to describe individuals who are Spanish-speaking but are not from Spain. However, neither terms correctly denote race and ethnicity.

Latinos are a group people of whose origins are from Latin America which could mean Mexican and Proud, Colombian and Proud, Puerto Rican and Proud, or from any other Spanish-speaking country proud of that heritage. This is no different from Caucasian people who celebrate being Irish or share their pride in their family’s background from the “old country”.

An interesting part for social workers to discover is that if a Latino has lived in the United States of America for a while not only are Latino, they are American!

The Daily Show captured the essence of this story. They spoke to immigrants about the Immigration Bill by reminding people that Latinos are people, and don’t lump us all together.

Photo Credit: (April 10, 2013) Scenes from the “Time Is Now” Immigration Reform Rally at the US Capitol. ~ Washington, DC ~ Photo by David Sachs / SEIU Read more: Follow us: @RYOTnews on Twitter | RYOTnews on Facebook

Remembering a Pioneer: Desi Arnaz

Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III or Desi Arnaz for short was born on March 2, 1917 in Santiago de Cuba . He migrated to the States in the 1930s because his parents wanted to escape Morales’ dictatorship in Cuba. Desi Arnaz became the first Latino role model in the United States as a result of his role on the popular tv show “I love Lucy”.

Desi Arnaz or Ricky Ricardo as he was known to the American viewing audience of the 1950s was a Cuban who moved to the United States as a band leader and served in WWII as an American Citizen which was an era of deep seeded racism and discrimination.

With his thick Cuban accent, Desi was well aware of the racism that existed in the United States. I Love Lucy was significant because it depicted the first interracial couple on television in America.  The show used light-hearted humor and likable personalities to portray this interracial couple trying to make their way in the world. I Love Lucy premiered three years before the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling. The United States was still segregated and it took Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz 2 years to get their show on the air because of the controversy it would cause.

During his time, Desi was not often thought of as a Latino hero or role model. The interesting part about I Love Lucy was that this was not a manufactured TV couple. Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball were married in real life:

“ In an era dominated by racial strife, it says something about the man, his wife, and the audience that allowed them into their home. In the end, his Cuban heritage became a source of pride as opposed to the butt of jokes.”  Wrote Don Keko of the Examiner.

In remembering the sitcom, many people can pull out racial humor by making fun of Arnaz’ accent, but in the end, Desi Arnaz played a genuine character that transcended the racial prejudices of the day and warmed the hearts of all in such a racially divided time. Today, modern Latino entertainers work to improve the image of Latino families and Latino stereotypes.

We must not forget pioneers such as Desi Arnaz who used his career to improve the image of Latino males in the 1950s at the height of discrimination and racial tension. Through comedy and likability, Arnaz and Lucille Ball were able to provide a picture of a thriving interracial relationship where both partners respected one another while taking on hot social issues of their era with grace and comedic timing.

Why Did Rand Paul’s Filibuster Get More Media Attention Than Wendy Davis

Gender Politics, In Politics? NO WAY! Earlier this week, Senator Wendy Davis of Texas stood up for women’s reproductive rights in her 11 hour filibuster to keep the 45 clinics open in Texas SB 5 would have banned abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. She spoke with authority and on such a controversial topic that it would only seem fitting that the 24 hour news networks would have paid Davis more media attention.

Here is an excerpt from Time Magazine:
(Photo by Bob Daemmrich/Corbis)

You might think that this kind of ticking-clock politics drama would be a magnet for cable news. TV news, after all, devoted considerable coverage when GOP Sen. Rand Paul held a rare one-man-speaking filibuster on the floor of the Senate earlier this year. There was a deadline, an explosive social issue, some charged gender politics in the room. “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” demanded Sen.Leticia Van De Putte with roars from the crowd and rowdy protesters shaking the room with chants of “Let her speak! Let her speak!” Aaron Sorkin, could not have scripted it better, though he may have polished up the dialogue a bit.
Read Full Article

What was it about Rand Paul’s filibuster in the Senate that motioned for such an amplified voice in mainstream media?  Many may remember Rand Paul and his filibuster against John Brennan’s appointment to the CIA. What was it about the filibustering process that made both Senators stop their filibusters? For Rand Paul, it was biological while for Wendy Davis it was a technicality. The longest Filibuster on record is that of Strom Thurmond who was allowed a short recess for a bathroom break in 1977. With this in mind, how does the filibustering process work?

There are a few key rules about filibustering, and the first of which is that the floor must be taken with no sitting or no leaning. Wendy Davis was penalized for this rule because another senator assisted her in adjusting her back brace. The other key rule about filibustering is staying on topic. According to the chamber, she went off topic twice by mentioning the budget for planned parenthood and mentioned a sonogram bill. In Filibustering after a representative has gotten three violations, as Sen. Davis received, she can no longer hold the floor.

These technicalities were not discussed in as great detail in the Rand Paul Filibuster in March of 2013. The standards appear to be different and the media coverage was different.  However, the issue struck a chord with social media advocates and local organizers.

Twitter was tweeting  #standwithwendy

“LET HER SPEAK” the crowd chanted as she left the floor

Her efforts were not in vain! Organizers and protesters chanted for the last 15 minutes and ran out the clock for that final vote.

Marriage Equality for LGBT Immigrants

Yesterday, the LGBTQ Community celebrated the end of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). However, the pathway to marriage equality has additional barriers for LGBT immigrants. While some celebrated the basic acknowledgment of their relationships, others like Sean Brooks and his husband Steve celebrated the end of deportation proceedings.

While DOMA was in effect, same sex married couples faced separation when their partner’s visas expired.  For other LGBTQ Immigrant couples like Christina and Eve, their family was strained because DOMA denied them the ability to petition for a green card. Christina who is a veteran married Eve who is an immigrant, and DOMA did not afford them the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples. With the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, the elimination of DOMA marks another leap toward marriage equality.

In the gang of  8’s immigration legislation, an amendment to include same sex couples in immigration reform was shot down by the political voices of Lindsay Graham and Marco Rubio.

“Can you imagine pitting the L.G.B.T. community against the Hispanic community?” an aide to Senator Robert Menendez, a member of the Gang of Eight, told me before the vote. “Are we crazy?”

The end of DOMA signals the end of oppression for the LGBTQ community in many aspects of American culture; specifically for immigration proceedings- what should families know? ~ The New Yorker

Immigration Equality set out to write a checklist of what families should know. At  the top of that list is the confirmation that same sex couples be able to apply for green cards and be allowed to apply even if the state of application does not recognize marriage equality.

In an interview with Kevin Johnson, Dean of the UC Davis School of Law and an immigration law expert, he stated the legalities were quite complicated.

“It’s far easier to change the law to recognize same-sex marriages than to wait for the courts to do it,” he said.

It’s not likely this will occur via immigration reform, though. Senate Judiciary Committee members opposed to Leahy’s original amendment in May said they feared it could bring down the entire bill. His latest amendment faced slim chances of getting a floor vote, and most likely won’t in light of the Supreme Court decision.

The Senate could vote on the immigration package as early as this week, and there’s a good possibility it will be approved. But all bets are off in the Republican-led House, which has yet to come up with its own comprehensive immigration plan.

E-Verify: Could It Be Used to Track All Citizens

In the recently drafted immigration reform bill, it is 800 pages in length which incorporates several amendments, and it’s still in the early stages of debate and drafting. However, one of the most interesting components of this bill is the proposal of a “photo tool” to assist with e-verify. It may sound reasonable on the surface, but shouldn’t we also be looking past the immediate reason for the photo tool in the e-verify program in order to consider long-term implications and threats to our freedom?

The gang of eight, the immigration reform coalition, has added a plan that will create a national photo database, what is this and how does this play into the language of discrimination? Well, think of e-verify, but this could prove to be more intrusive. E-Verify of course is the system in which social security numbers are verified to determine citizenship status, and the new system of this “photo tool” will use individual photo identification to determine residency status for work purposes.

Rand Paul was quoted by Global Dispatch,

“Error rates reported by government and private audits of E-Verify are extraordinarily high. E-Verify mistakenly approves a majority of unlawful immigrant job applicants and, worse, misidentifies about one percent of American applicants as unlawful. That opens up another legal odyssey for many Americans who should not have to ask permission from the federal government to work.”

Being that e-verify is an electronic program that is a partnership between the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, the original program was created to verify legal status. However, there is a growing fear that the amount of information collected in this database will be used for other purposes.

photo credit: SalFalko via photopin cc
photo credit: SalFalko via photopin cc

When social security numbers were created and passed as legislation, they were not used to verify “legal” status. Social security numbers were set up to track earnings and were later used as an identification number as it is unique to each person. The use of a Social Security number as an identification tool has been problematic as it only assigns a number to the person, or so it was thought. Since the adoption of the social security number, large government systems have tied the number to our taxes, loans, federal benefits programs, human service assistance programs, driver’s licenses, military and veteran services among others. In the age we live in, technology advances has made the unique identification number even more easily tracked using electronic measures. Living in this technologically rich world, adding a photo to the e-verify program would allow the government an unparalleled opportunity to track, or have a history of every American. Social security numbers hold the history of employment, educational systems, drivers licensing, IRS claims/ Taxes, and other social service involvement. Other concerns with this bill have been regarding the cost of the E-Verify program, The Society for Human Resource Management writes:

“The Congressional Budget Office estimated that a national E-Verify mandate would cost, on average, $1.2 billion annually, not including DHS personnel costs (the hiring of thousands of new enforcement agents would bump the price tag higher). A national E-Verify system would be costly for employers, too. Based on the estimates in the DHS’ Regulatory Impact Analysis for its 2008 E-Verify mandate for federal contractors, employers nationwide would spend”

In adding a photo to make sure “Carl” is not really “Carlos” is this now unconstitutional? Adding this photo and creating an expensive database full of information regarding every American citizen is concerning. In short, the argument remains, are we a nation “securing our borders” or are we putting the average citizen at risk of exploitation due to internet hacking and/or misuse of information?

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