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Personal statement of Strengths and Limitations

What do you consider your personal strengths and limitations in terms of your development as a professional social worker? Considering my strengths, I am cooperative, good-natured, generous, helpful, humble and modest and I trust others. As a professional, I am non-judgmental, not blaming the client for their troubles. Even if someone hurts my feelings, I am quick to forgive. These qualities are important for me, because I am working and will work with a variety of persons - healthcare professionals, clients, and so on - who may exhibit inflexible and demanding personalities that may be challenging to work with.

Finding the right treatment or service for each client based on their needs requires a creative person. I am also meticulous, hard-working, well organized, have good self- discipline, and take my obligations seriously. These traits are suitable for when I am working independently or carrying heavy caseloads.

My extroverted personality also suits my career objective as a social worker as interaction with others is a significant portion of a social worker’s job. Regarding communication skills, I am talkative, assertive, sociable and active. Over the years I have also succeeded to mature emotionally.

One of my limitations is that, although I speak four languages fluently, my Spanish is not acceptable yet when it comes to communicating with Hispanic clients. I am overcoming this personal limitation by taking a course in the next semester as a starting point. My other limitation is a lack of experience as a social worker. As I learn and seeing the issues that clients have, I am discovering that there is much more to learn. There are many concerns that I still do not know how to handle, but I am learning and will learn more in the near future.

Personal Qualities

2. What qualities do you possess which prepare you for graduate social work?

Some of my personal qualities include being motivated and enthusiastic in a thoughtful and respectful manner. I am able to maintain a courteous and caring demeanor, even in stressful situations. I have a high score for intellect, which indicates that I strive to learn and maintain my current knowledge, which is essential for a good and passionate social worker. I am genuinely concerned with other people and try to treat everyone with courtesy and kindness.

I have always had the desire to study and strive in my area of interest. When I had an opportunity in 2005 to go back to school, I was fully committed to excel in my studies. My goal is not just to get good grades, but also to fully understand the concepts in my studies and be able to analyze them. There are many social issues in our society that I would like to personally contribute to for the improvement of society. Through learning, I was able to understand some of my own experiences from the past, and instead of taking them as a terrible lesson, I accepted them as challenging journey.

One of my academic goals is to keep up my above average grades. I put in enormous effort and hard work into my studies. Making it to the Dean’s list every semester is also a priority. Upon arriving at this university, I was determined that I would spend my next four years in pursuit of new ideas and experiences.

Current and Past Experiences

3. What professional skills and experiences make you an appropriate candidate for our program?

Regarding my work experience, since 2005 I have been responsible for daily programming of activities and providing positive behavioral goals and objectives for an eight year old boy with high functioning autism. This year, I was employed at California Psychcare as a behavioral instructor. This company is one of the vendors for North Los Angeles County Regional Center where I provide therapy for children with autism.

Besides my part-time work, I have also been an intern since August 2009 at the Domestic Abuse Center, which is located in Reseda, California. We are trained volunteer advocates responding with police to domestic violence calls, offering immediate assistance with medical, legal and counseling referrals and shelter options.

From January to May 2009, I was a volunteer at the Therapeutic Living Centers for the Blind in Reseda, California. The clients were legally blind and also had some degree of cognitive disability. My interactions with them included learning appropriate prompting, assistance and communication techniques. In May 2009, I received a Dr. Russ Miller Scholarship Award given by the CSUN Sociology Department.

Future Goals

4. Discuss how your professional goals are consistent with the mission of the CSUN MSW Program.

Regarding my professional goals, I have a strong desire to help others. This insight comes from the fact that my mother had a serious mental disorder, namely bipolar disorder, while she was alive. In Yugoslavian society, it was a shame and a stigma to have someone mentally ill in the family. My mother tried hard to adjust and to act normal, but this was beyond her abilities, particularly around the time when the civil war started to break out in Yugoslavia. Instead of demanding to adjust, the family members should have understood that they had an ill person in the family. My father and I lacked this knowledge at that time. When my father got sick from stomach cancer, the whole situation was spinning out of control in my family until it ended in tragedy. My beloved mother could not cope any longer with life’s challenges and she committed suicide. My father died five months later. I strongly feel that my mother could be alive today, had she received help, which is the reason for my choice of future career.

After completing a Master’s degree, I would like to develop psycho-educational workshops. Families with mentally ill members often find themselves overburdened. These families do not have the appropriate knowledge or skills to handle or take care of the mentally ill; they need special training, support and knowledge. Moreover, the families need to know how to interact with service providers effectively and how to interact with their mentally ill members. Consequently, I strongly believe that these workshops will result in good outcomes for the whole family. I never had any professionals approaching me and offering me this knowledge. Even though we were a middle class family in Yugoslavia, it was assumed that if we did not need financial help, we did not need any other help or information. Hopefully for some families who have a mentally ill member, this support in the form of workshops will be beneficial.

My other passion when it comes to career objectives is helping soldiers returning

from war to adjust to everyday life again. We can work to develop a clinical strategy to

reach out to traumatized veterans who have not been able to return to civilian life. After completing the MSW program, I would like to, as a social worker, offer veterans and their families some services such as resource navigation, crisis intervention, advocacy, benefit assistance, and mental health therapy for conditions such as depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and drug and alcohol addiction. For many combat veterans, their problems are compounded by multiple mental ailments. Thus, in facing the challenges on return from combat, it is vital for the veterans to receive family support and understanding.

Many civilians are judgmental when it comes to returning veterans, claiming they

are strong and will get over their war experiences. It is therefore the duty of a passionate psychiatric social worker to educate the public about this sensitive topic and to help these veterans who deserve to be helped. These are my main career objectives.

I come from a country with rich cultural and ethnic diversity, where I lived as an ethnic minority. This self-awareness helps me understand cultural sensitivity better as well as the clients’ cultural beliefs, when working with the specific client populations.

Beside English, I speak Hungarian, Serbian and Croatian and I am in the process of learning Spanish. Knowledge of Spanish will be an asset for me as a social work practitioner. Physical, social, psychological and emotional problems attributable to lifestyle, environment, substance abuse and stress will continue to grow in number and complexity. There will be a need for creative and imaginative interventions.

Professional Objectivity

5. Identify three client populations that might create a value conflict for you

or that might cause you to lose your professional objectivity. Describe what

approach you will take in order to work with each population listed.

One of the client populations for which I need to be more objective is working with gang members. I realize that being in a gang is more than just doing drug deals and participating in other illegal gang activity. My approach to overcome this deficit is through education to learn about the history of gangs, their language and symbolism, economic considerations and factors that contribute to gang activity as well as the risk factors and the impact of migration and immigration on gangs. I need to learn about how to address the root causes, to recognize that young people often join gangs to achieve a sense of belonging and find a supportive community in them that they frequently lack at home, to understand the inner workings of the gang to find out exactly what it provides, who its members are, what activities they are involved with, and how its leadership is structured. I believe that these adolescents are not inherently bad; instead, faced with limited choices, they are making decisions that lead them down a negative path.

Another client population causing value conflict is the terminally ill as such encounters will expose me to feelings of pain, sorrow, anger, helplessness, and hopelessness. Setting realistic short- and long-term goals in treating these clients and focusing on what can be done, even in situations that seem hopeless, can prevent a sense of failure and despair. Furthermore, achievable goals can be set even in the difficult situation of treating terminally ill patients. The goals might include improving the patient’s quality of life in the final days, instilling a sense of choice and acceptance of physical limitations, helping them cope with parting from family members, and examining their priorities.

The third client population is the elderly. Elderly clients are affectionate and eagerly wait for a social worker to visit them. Most of them treat the social worker as a friend. Professional objectivity is required, so that I will not visualize the client as a family, and to keep in mind that the goal is to help them develop the ability to do well without a lot of support.

Time Management

6. Clearly describe the plans that you have made in order to ensure that you will be able to complete the MSW Program you are applying for given the course workload of the program and the number of hours that are required for field education.

As I work part time for 15 hours per week, I have chosen to undertake the three-year program. My husband works full time and I am not the sole financial provider for my family. I am planning my other areas of life around my studies, so I can fully commit and keep up with good grades.

7. If you are applying for the three‐year program (or stated that you would consider either program on your application), include an additional discussion regarding your current employment, time management, and specific plans to accommodate sixteen hours per week of field education (of which eight to sixteen are during internship business hours) during the second and third years of the program.

My work is flexible; I mostly work afternoons and sometimes on weekends. As stated before, I work as a behavioral instructor with children who have autism. I go into the clients’ homes to provide services. I never work more than three hours per session. I have been able to establish a professional, but friendly relationship with these families; therefore, I can change my schedule, as long as the required hours are completed.

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