Congratulations to Fordham GSS MSW student Maria Guzman Herrera, who was named the 2022 recipient of the Latino Social Work Coalition Scholarship!
The Scholarship is awarded based on an application process conducted by the Latino Social Work Coalition.
“[Maria’s] application was an outstanding one among one of the most talented cohorts of applicants we’ve had in many years,” The Coalition said. “We’re honored to support them in their educational and professional endeavors.”
Maria will be honored at The Coalition’s Leadership Awards ceremony as part of the 22nd Annual Latino Social Work Coalition and Scholarship Fund Annual Gala on October 28. The Gala will be held at the Terrace on the Park.
We spoke with Maria about her MSW experience, why she chose social work, and why Latino representation in social work is so important.
What does it mean to you to receive this award?
Ooof! I know that the LSWCSF was flooded with applications, but they were only able to pick a few recipients, so I feel very lucky, privileged and honored to have been selected. I also feel some self-pressure to take up a little bit more space in the world. I’m an introvert, which means that I tend to just listen, observe, and not speak up very often. However, winning this award has reminded me that I do have a whole lifetime of experience that can be used to directly help others, especially those who may also have trouble speaking up and reaching out for help.
Why do you want to be a social worker?
Over the past decade or so, I have been working in the harm reduction/drug user health space, and throughout that time, I have noticed that mental health treatment services are the hardest to provide and sustain within this space. It’s hard work; staff must be ready for the high need environment and the emotional burnout that may come along with it. I am hoping to learn the skills to provide psychotherapy to folks in these spaces at the minimum, and help build out mental health services in non-traditional environments.
Why did you choose Fordham for your MSW?
One key point that helped me decide on Fordham was one of our very own (and amazing!) professors. I reached out to many people as I was applying to various schools and this particular professor took the time to answer my questions about the program over Zoom. We discussed how the program would align with my career goals, and she just made me feel so welcome right from the very beginning. I actually work with her now, and it’s been a really fruitful experience. I’ve now had classes with a few adjunct professors, too, who have been so thoughtful with their lesson plans and have taught me so much from their day-to-day experiences in the field.
What’s been your favorite moment from your MSW experience so far?
I knew that studying social work would be hard, but not in the ways that I imagined. I have been enjoying a process of introspection, self-reflection, and self-care during the last year that has been challenging but very rewarding.
Why is it important to have Latino representation in social work?
I was born in Guatemala and came to the States at around three years old. My mom was 43 when she first got here, and knew very little about what services were available to us. While I was growing up, we didn’t have anyone who we could reach out to for help except for family that had already made it to the US. I think we would have benefited a lot from just touching base with someone who not only spoke Spanish, but who understood or had a good sense of what the immigrant experience is like, who was a neutral observer (compared to family who had lots of opinions and judgments), and who had a wide range of knowledge of services that we would have been eligible for. I’ve already come across a few families in my placement that remind me a lot of what I grew up with: young people translating for their parents; mothers being really reserved and guarded, but still needing support. Once I begin to interact with these families, they are able to let their guard down enough to get the ball rolling on a certain need. I’m hoping that as I continue to work with these families, we can perhaps start processing and unpack the years of trauma, racism, and other structural violence that they have been subjected to in the US.
What are your career aspirations for after graduation?
In the long run, I am hoping to help figure out how to build capacity within needle exchanges (and in other non-traditional settings) to be able to provide mental health care in a way that is resistant to the turnover in staffing that can happen. How do we best support clinicians working in these spaces to help reduce turnover? How do we build up programs that are sustainable and effective? I’m not sure if finding the answer to those questions will include research or if they can be achieved through managing direct service programs but I plan to start out by providing one on one services to folks after graduation, and take it from there.
What are some of your favorite things to do around NYC?
I’ve lived in the city for around 11 years now, and since day one, it’s been such a huge pleasure to walk long stretches of the city. On Fridays, my husband and I will pick a restaurant that we’ve been wanting to try and either walk there or walk back home after we’ve eaten, and just soak in the different rhythms of the city along the way. We’ve caught a few shows at Carnegie Hall, too. The National Youth Orchestra – Jazz is spectacular and you can get pretty good seats for the show for about $30, which I think makes this type of thing much more accessible. I always feel really fancy sitting in the red velvet seats at Carnegie Hall. It’s a really fun experience.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to get their MSW, what would it be?
Go for it! You’ll be contributing to making the world a better place.