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PIPELINE Fellowship Alumna Says Program Prepared Her for Program Director Position


Shanice Peters, GSS ‘22, was a part of the PIPELINE for Youth Health Fellowship Program during her time at the Graduate School of Social Service. The PIPELINE program offers specialized training to advanced year Master of Social Work (MSW) students enrolled in the on-campus program at the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service. Students selected for this competitive fellowship program will participate in specialized training and receive a $10,000 stipend.

Peters completed her field internship during the program at the Urban Assembly, a school support agency that develops learning tools and programs that enhance student growth and school performance. Now graduated, Peters works as a program director for the Center for Family Life at Sunset Park. 

We sat down with Peters to speak about her time in the PIPELINE program, at GSS, and how the combination prepared her for the workforce today. She also gives advice to students interested in applying for the program. 

You were an English major during undergrad. What motivated you to pursue social work for your master’s?

So during my undergrad studies, I went for creative writing because I’ve always loved and enjoyed it. I had this dream of working in editorial for a magazine.

After undergrad, I returned to my job during summer breaks. I was working with middle school kids at a summer camp. It was a social service-based agency, and they had known me since high school. They told me I should be a social worker; honestly, I had started to see it myself. I love working with children and helping communities, especially those in need. While exploring my writing career, I decided I could do both. I can still be a writer and publish my pieces, but I can also be a social worker, give back to communities, and support and help others. 

Sometimes you don’t realize things for yourself until people point them out for you, and that was sort of the case. I didn’t ever really think I was that great with children, but people started to point out very concrete examples of moments when I’d come in to support a child, and a lot of those children are much older now. So whenever they return, you see the work and how much it’s paid off over the years.

What kinds of things did you learn in the PIPELINE program? How did it prepare you for your career after graduation?

I’ve learned a lot. You’re in a mixed group with so many people who you may have never had a class with. And for me, I was virtual, because, you know, pandemic times, and it was just really nice to have another space where you get to meet other people who are in the same program as you. Also, it became the space for us to talk about what was going on in our internships. Students had different internships, and all our internships were connected to behavioral health. So serving our community, especially communities that were in need that had been really impacted by the pandemic at that point.

I always found it helpful just listening to other students and hearing about their experiences. We supported each other through the work as people who are learning these skills to go out there and be social workers. And that’s the stuff I still carry with me as I do my work. I’m very much more in community organizations, but all the skills for working with individuals that I’ve learned, I’ve been able to directly apply it. And my cohort is still connected after graduation.

What does your career look like now?

So I work for the Center for Family Life at Sunset Park. I’m the program director, and I work for our middle school program. In the mornings, I do a lot of administrative work, data information, and preparing for the school day. I’m getting schedules together, planning special events for the kids, or following up with parents and connecting them to resources.

And then, once the kids leave school, which is around 2:30, it’s after-school time. We provide a lot of activities that are around performing arts and also visual arts, and we also provide a range of club activities, from sports to walking clubs, five days a week.

We believe in the power of groups and going through group development. So we use that as a tool for the whole entire school year to allow kids to get to know each other and work out healthy conflicts. This is a community that is mainly immigrants, so we have a lot of students who are bilingual or are just coming to the country for the first time and don’t know any English. A lot of these programs also support them in their learning development. They can connect with other people to become familiar with the community and the new country they’re in.

How did receiving the PIPELINE scholarship funds impact your educational experience?

It allowed me to focus a little bit more on my studies by having that financial burden eased. It helped me through my last year of school, supporting me with paying off my bills for any other expenses that would come up. I know a lot of students appreciate it. 

Did you face any challenges in the program? How did you overcome them?

My internship was very fulfilling, but it also was during a time in which we were integrating back in person during the pandemic. And so one of the challenges I had was battling all these Covid cases coming up and still trying to provide services simultaneously. Another challenge was working with a community that was completely different from mine. 

PIPELINE gave me community support that helped me overcome that challenge. Knowing that there was this group of people who are facing similar things is helpful. 

Any advice for students interested in PIPELINE, or behavioral health in general?

As social workers, we get so passionate sometimes that we forget to take care of ourselves. And I think behavioral health is one of those areas where you can definitely feel yourself getting drained or feel yourself fading. 

My biggest advice is to make sure that you’re always taking care of yourself. I know my classes, we talked about this a lot — learning to balance our work lives and being able to turn that off and focus on ourselves and our own needs. We can’t keep doing this work if we’re not able to take care of ourselves first.

One of the program’s biggest benefits is its dedication to diversity and representation. How important are those things in behavioral health?

It’s crucial. If you look at the research on the pandemic, people of color were a community hit hard and are not getting the support and services they need. When I was in my placement, I was working with a majority of people of color. You realize that, as someone in need, to have people doing this work that look just like you is super helpful. It makes you feel seen. It makes you feel included. 

It makes you feel like you are valued, and yes, what you feel and experience is valid, and so I think it’s been incredibly important. And I think the more minds, and diversity that we have, the stronger we can make this work. We can add more ideas, and more research into social work. I felt really proud of being in this program, and proud that we’re really helping social workers, especially people of color, move towards better opportunities.

Why did you choose Fordham for your MSW education?

I actually looked at Fordham for undergrad, and so it’s always been in the back of my mind. When I was looking at MSW programs, I knew I wanted to go part-time. I wanted to personally take it slow and also be able to work. When I saw Fordham had a part-time track, and I saw you could do it in three or four years, it was something I didn’t see across other programs. A lot of programs only have two-year programs. 

Also, the different opportunities Fordham provided. Fordham has a study abroad program in [London] England for social work, and I really thought that was unique. Fordham’s connection to the entire world in general, and how that influences our work, was really a selling point for me.

How did your experience in the program shape the way you see social work?

When I went into social work, having been surrounded by social workers, I think what was interesting about coming into the program was that I knew a lot of things. But to expand my mind and to learn, this is the research behind this, and also to just explore different subject areas that I personally have never even heard of, was really impactful. 

I feel like social work is a personal journey. So I feel like during that journey, I changed a lot and have a different perspective of people and interacting with people in a way that only social workers can understand — they have a different perspective. The world needs more social workers. Mental health is at the forefront right now. When my mom was my age, mental health was never talked about. I think that we are the ones who are going to change the landscape of mental health and bring more perspective and insight. I’m passionate about that. We will see that shift, and it’s going to be because of social workers.


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