Social Work Today magazine has just published the top ten list of social workers who were nominated by their peers for outstanding performance in the past year. We are proud to reprint these inspirational comments from the finalists in their own words.
- Jonathan Beer MSW, LCSW
Geriatric Case Manager for Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services in Boca Raton, FL.
“Find what it is that drives you. Some people are passionate about helping those with substance abuse. Others are passionate about helping kids. For me, I was passionate about working with older adults. My best advice is to find that niche—that passion—and to stick with it."
- Paul Brylske, MSW, LCSW-C
Director of the Therapeutic Foster Care Program at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.
“A day doesn't go by that we don't have something positive happen in a child's life. Negative things happen sometimes, but not nearly as often as a lot of people seem to believe. There is great work being done."
- Deborah S. Harburger, MSW
Clinical Instructor, Codirector of the Maryland Center, and Project Director at Thrive@25 at the University of Maryland School of Social Work in Baltimore.
"The opportunity to influence students is such a privilege. They need to understand policy and how to engage with it rather than be intimidated by it. I often feel as though my original dream of becoming a teacher is coming full circle."
- Ashley McSwain, LGSW, MSOD
Executive Director of Community Family Life Services, Inc., in Washington, DC.
“I can remember doing house calls and having a lot I wanted to say but just didn't know how. I didn't have the right skills or tools. But, through social work, I found my voice. I felt I was given the opportunity to convey the voices of the unheard."
- Justin "Jay" Miller, PhD, MSW, CSW
Assistant professor at the University of Kentucky College of Social Work.
“I believe that social work is not something that you simply do—a social worker is who you are. As such, I have an innate desire to help people. It's internal. That desire is fueled by my personal and professional experiences. As a young person, there were times when I needed help and individuals in my life afforded me that help. So I honor them by paying it forward."
- Beena Parekh, LCSW
Hospice Social Worker at Bon Secours in Richmond, VA.
“Watching families gather together to be there as their loved one moves on in his or her journey is just so inspiring. I've learned that death is a part of living—it's a cycle of life—and my goal is to make it as positive as it can be in those final months or days."
- Jennifer L. Parker, MSW, LCSW
Senior U.S. Probation Officer for the Eastern District of MO in St. Louis.
"I just genuinely love to talk to people. I like to hear their stories and let them talk. Sometimes it's more about listening than anything else. So often it's easy to just slip into business mode and just get the work done. However, what people sometimes want is just to talk, to share their feelings, and I like to listen."
- Zach Pruitt, MSW
Executive Director of Northfield Healthy Community Initiative in Northfield, MN.
(When two abandoned brothers (a 7th-grader and an 11th-grader) were in need of being adopted, Pruitt (in his 20s at the time), stepped up to the plate and became their legal guardian.)
"It was a moment to truly live my values. It was far and away both the greatest and the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life. But the choice to follow through with it was clear. It was exactly what I believed in doing."
- Christopher Solomon, MSW
Clinical Field Instructor in the Department of Social Work at North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC.
“I always say, 'I want you to be better than me'. That's my goal for my students. I'm proud to be invested in their futures. I want them to do well—and do everything they can do."
- Dianne Rush Woods, PhD, MSW, LCSW
Diversity Officer at California State University, East Bay in Hayward, CA
(Rush Woods says she grew up extraordinarily poor. She had an advisor once tell her to focus on typing class because she would not be going to college and would need to find a secretarial job upon graduation.)
"She thought she was helping me. Having faced obstacles like that, as well as individuals like that, helped me realize that I want to be the person that opens the door and encourages students. I'm constantly inspired by them as they grow to see the opportunities they have ahead of them."