The type of student that Concordia University Wisconsin attracts is quite often service-minded.
This has been clearly displayed in the popularity of CUW’s many successful health profession programs, which include physical therapy, occupational therapy, physician assistant studies, rehabilitation science, and social work. Our social work department is a prime example of this desire and is a particularly direct means to help those in need. Social work is an ever-growing field, encompassing professionals who are competently prepared to represent the many populations in need of assistance. While the job demand has been projected to grow, Concordia University Wisconsin’s social work department has spent intensive energy on preparing students in this area to utilize their God-given strengths to be the advocates the world needs. Their settings entail mental health clinics, schools, child welfare and human service agencies, hospitals, and community based organizations. In the words of our own Dr. Sarah Collins, “We prepare Christian social workers to be competent generalist practitioners.”
The experience of graduating from CUW’s Bachelor of Social Work program and making an impact in the working world is highlighted here by three graduates of the program.
Ashleigh Jensen, Urban Youth Leadership Coordinator
Ashleigh describes her position as a mission worker for an organization called Kingdom Workers in Milwaukee at Lighthouse Youth Center as being unique. This location is a drop-in center for children ages 10-18 years old. In addition to providing youth with a fun, safe environment to go to, they also lead devotionals daily. Different groups are implemented to help feed the children, and it harbors a positive environment for them to work on their school studies. Lighthouse has two campuses and is planned to expand to a third.
Ashleigh states “Lighthouse was started 12 years ago, when a survey of the Havenwoods community revealed that many of the families within this community were single parent households, and their greatest concern was where and what their children were doing between school hours and when their parents got home.” Social workers are dedicated to both recognizing the needs of groups and implementing the most effective programs to help them. Without a single doubt, Ashleigh’s organization has helped make an impact- crime has dropped 30% in the area. Still, the organization seeks more staff to keep up with demand, and is exploring ideas to bridge the gap for the youth moving on after they age out of the center. Ashleigh’s role includes leading a mentorship program and girl’s leadership group, all with a strong spiritual component. All of this work is an exceptional cause in empowering, encouraging, and supporting youth- areas that are needed deeply elsewhere.
She notes “At my current position, the greatest reward for me is when a kid I haven’t seen in a couple of months shows up at the youth center, hugs me, and tells me about how they’re doing. You can tell they’re excited to be back. When kids reminisce about different memories they have of Lighthouse, you can see the impact of the relationships being built. You just know you’re making a difference in their lives, and that’s the best feeling in the world.”
Monique VanFelder, Recovery Support Specialist
Monique is another fine example of a CUW graduate dedicated to serving in Milwaukee, with another focus within the broad scope of social work. She currently works at La Causa social services as a Recovery Support Specialist. This job includes the qualities of case management by helping coordinate programs for helping those who have issues with substance abuse. “I help clients get into residential treatment, help schedule doctor appointments, set up mental health services, transport clients when needed, support clients in court when needed, and create recovery care plans for clients.” As a Recovery Support Coordinator she helps clients form goals and carry them out. She has seen first-hand that issues with addiction are prevalent in Milwaukee. La Causa has been successful in addressing this problem by working in several areas that assist populations that need this assistance: veterans, the homeless, those with mental health issues, and people within the child-welfare system.
“Some of the rewards of being a social worker include being able to help others, helping clients reach their goals, helping clients obtain needed treatment, and seeing clients succeed with treatment.” Throughout the noble pursuit of resolving the systematic issues of our society, one can be happy to find how their services positively affect the individuals they work with. Growingly, social workers have been embraced for their willingness to help by meeting the client in whatever situation they find themselves in, and moving forward.
Lauren Faulds, Youth Outreach Specialist
Lauren is employed at Pathfinders in Milwaukee as a Youth Outreach Specialist. “I am part of the AmeriCorps program which is a great start after college. I am part of the Street Beat Team in which we do outreach work from a van. Our age range is from 11-25 years old. The population we mostly serve is homeless individuals, high schoolers and sex workers.” she explains. “Pathfinders makes a huge impact on the lives of the youth. We help them connect to jobs and housing.” So many vulnerable groups need this head start so that they too can flourish within our community.
Lauren stresses the importance of focusing on the good that one can do as a social worker, as no one can solve everything. Additionally, she makes the great point that we are not there to fix people but to simply help them stay as safe as possible. On the topic of handling the difficulties of the job, she says “Self-care is necessary to maintain a good state of mind. If we are not mentally healthy ourselves then it is difficult to effectively benefit our clients.” In Lauren’s free time, she enjoys going on walks with her dog and spending time with friends and family.
These are just three graduates of Concordia’s Bachelor of Social Work program along-side their cohort. The consistency one will find among the professionals coming out of CUW that have studied social work, and the large community of those in all of our helping professions, is that all of these individuals are committed to serving their brothers and sisters in Christ according to His word. For one means of doing this in a dynamic and interesting field, being a social worker is a very fitting job.
— Kai Goldenstein is a student writer and junior year Social Work major, minoring in German
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