Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I almost dropped out of grad school pt. 1

Since graduation is quickly approaching, I've been thinking about all of the events that led me to this point. I'm about to receive a Master's in Social Work from New York University! My path to graduation was not an easy one. It was so difficult that at one point, I almost dropped out of school.

In the middle of the semester last spring, I was miserable. On one hand I was excelling in the classroom, on the other hand I hated waking up each morning to go in to my internship. I was interning last year with a community based organization (CBO) that brought Master level social workers into underserved public schools to provide counseling and classroom interventions for students at risk of academic failure and drop out. My placement was in a high school in Brooklyn/Queens where each morning kids would go through security scanners before being let into campus. I've found that this is a fairly normal practice on the east coast. And my disdain with this approach has to be saved for another post because the atmosphere was more like a prison than a facility that promoted education and growth.

Although I loved the kids that I worked with, the role of social workers in public high schools was full of financial and structural challenges. Whenever I wanted to plan an event, it was damn near impossible to get funding. If I was approved to do an event, getting through the red tape in order for it to be implented was a pain in my ass. My supervisor was detached from work and unfortunately just going through the motions.  She was not inspiring nor a great role model. I looked at her everyday and scoffed. I couldn't stand her as a person, let alone supervisor. It was a feeling I didn't hide. This only added to my tumultuous relationship with her as my advisor. How could this evil woman be a social worker?!! She shouldn't be allowed to be around prisoners let alone these young impressionable children.

After speaking with several people in the high school system, I found that school social workers could be responsible for more than 600+ students at a time. At what could be several different sites. Add this with the programming limitations and lack of funding and I was starting to believe that maybe this path wasn't for me. I could not see myself as an overworked and underpaid high school employee. When I entered the field of social work, I knew I wouldn't make a lot of money but I thought I would at least be happy about positively affecting the lives of children. The thought of burning out daily all the while being poor was just too much to handle.

After a few months into the 2nd semester, I started to think of a way out.

What if I dropped out of school?

I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in a career I didn't like, let alone love. I could drop out of grad school and do something else. I reflected on what brought me to the field in the first place and looked at my next steps. I started looking up other programs at NYU but then I cringed at the idea of taking out more loans. I was already on the hook for my first year loans, was I really going to multiply that by 3? Was I going to move out of NYC and go back home with my tail in between my legs. I didn't actually care about what people would think about me leaving school, I just wanted to be happy when I went to the place I would spend more than a third of my life.

Happiness just wasn't happening in the confines of a high school/prison.

to be continued...

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