School of Social Work Alumni Updates

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Lucy Flood, MSW 2017, began working for Hawaii Family Court with the Court Appointed Special Advocates Program (CASA) in October 2017. This program trains volunteer citizens to serve as officers of the court, to protect the best interests of children involved in abuse and neglect proceedings. As a staff social worker, I am responsible for recruiting, training, and supervising our volunteers and performing the duties of a CASA where needed. I love it! HPU prepared me to serve with compassion, utilizing a strength-based perspective and meeting the diverse children and families I work with "where they are at."

Michael Paeste, BSW 2013, MSW 2016, is employed at Ohana Health Plan as a service coordinator specializing in children who identify with special health care needs. He will be making a transition to working with the geriatric long term care population.

Heather Lusk, MSW 2016, wants to let you know that CHOW Project and Life Foundation are merging and creating a new organization called the Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center.

Blandine Reid, MSW 2016, is currently employed at Care HAWAII as a behavioral health case manager. “HPU Graduate school definitely prepared me for my field. My next goal is my LCSW in 2019. When I’m not servicing my community I’m enjoying being a grandmother, which has been beyond wonderful. If I had to share any knowledge for the upcoming graduates, it would be network, network and network some more. In my field it is important and my current position has taught me the importance of it.”

Ashley Bonton, MSW 2016, continued to work for HPU as an academic advisor for the school of education and criminal justice. “While working there I realized I loved working with students and considered going back to school to become a teacher. The universe had other plans for me. I discovered school social work on accident. In November of 2016, I left my job at HPU and move the San Francisco bay area and pursued a career in school social work with the San Francisco unified school district. It wasn't easy, as most know when you get your degree from one state and then move to another, not everything is the same. Although I already had my MSW and passed the LSW exam for Hawaii, I still had to become an intern again, and take classes for a credential that is required to work in schools. As an intern I was a part of the Project prevent grant and worked in two schools that were considered high needs, surrounded by high community violence, and the students experienced high levels of trauma on multiple levels. My primary placement was at Dr. George Washington Carver Elementary school and my secondary placement was at Willie Brown Middle school. In 6 months i worked over 500 hours in these schools, and was an eye opener, humbling, emotional journey. While trying to complete my hours I found out my mom had a 4 cm tumor on her brain that created a lot health issues and an 80% chance of dying within a few months. I convinced her to go through with trying to get it removed. I had to abruptly leave my internship to go to Louisiana to support my mom and take care of 12 year old sister while she recovered. While in Louisiana I received a phone call that the SFUSD school district wanted me a part of their team and that the staff at Dr. George Washington Carver Elementary school loved working with me so much that wanted to bring me back full time! Fast forward to the present. My mom had a successful surgery and is making progress, slow, but still progress. I accepted the full time position, and have been in my role as school social worker for 6 months now. It has definitely been an emotional rollercoaster and had moments of doubt and frustration but I don't think I would have it any other way. In my position I wear multiple hats from wellness center coordinator to foster youth liaison to site supervisor to interns and AmeriCorps members. My job has me working in micro, mezzo, and macro level. I love it. It keeps me on my toes, I learn something new every day, and it challenges me in ways I could not imagine.”

Dänya Herrell, MSW 2016, is working as a Youth and Family Services therapist and has been doing so for about a year and a half. “love it, I mainly work with teenagers. I run a self esteem group for high school students that's going strong (we made vegan peanut butter cups this evening for Valentine's Day in fact, haha) and I incorporate a lot of mindfulness and art into my practice. I passed my licensure exam in July of last year after a wild night at a Jack Johnson concert and am on track to be a LCSW in a year's time. Focus and trainings happen to include eating disorders, trauma, and LGBTQA youth. Those have kind of turned into my areas of focus and passion. I was also awarded a partial scholarship, due to my work in rural Colorado, for a yoga program so I can be a practitioner of such and not only implement yoga into my practice but also into the community in which I live (closest yoga is 60 miles away!!) It's really moving doing social work and being a therapist in the community in which I was raised, meeting with kids that go to the high school I went to, having many of the same teachers I did. It's an incredible feeling to give back to this community. I plan to venture somewhere else in a year's time, but right now this is where it's at and I'm working to cultivate deeper knowledge and understanding (while sprinkling a lot of self care in between)!!!!”

Ambria Flippo, MSW 2016, reports “After a New Year's trip to Budapest, Slovenia, and Croatia, I started a new job as a Social Service Practitioner at Children and Family Services for San Bernardino County. Prior to that, I was a Mental Health Specialist for Lutheran Social Services as well as a contractor for On The Rise, Inc, a foster family agency. I currently live in Barstow, CA.”

Nichole Fian, BSW 2016, reported “I am currently enrolled in UHM's MSW program. I did not do the advanced standing track. I have been in Child & Family Services for going on 2 academic years for practicum. My first program for my first year was at Hale O Ulu. This is a program for adolescent individuals who are suspended from school and is an alternative learning program to get their credits. My current program is Domestic Violence Services for Families. I am working with both survivors and perpetrators. I am facilitating groups for survivors and doing intakes/assessments/and service plans for perpetrators as well as case management. I have three perpetrators on my caseload at the moment. I am attending my first ohana conference on Monday the 12th. So far, no marriage or children. I did add an additional doggy to my family with my boyfriend. She is a dauchsand chihuahua mix, her name is Vienna (Sausage) haha! I am graduating in May, which I am very excited and anxious about. My plan is to take my LSW at the end of this year *crossing fingers*.”

Sarah Wangit, BSW 2016, just graduated from the MSW program at UH. She just finished her 2nd and final specialization year of behavioral mental health. “During my 1st year (generalist) I landed a field practicum within the Department of Community Services Work Force Division at Oahu WorkLinks that provides services and resources for the unemployment population. During this time, I was still not sure what population I wanted to work with after I graduated. So I was open to explore what options were available for field placement sites since it was my generalist year, in addition to also exploring different populations that I have not worked with aside from community health and the homeless population during my time at HPU for the BSW program. My first suggestion I considered to try out was working with youth/children. There was an opportunity for a practicum site at the Susanna Wesley Community Center but later decided that were no longer accepting anymore interns. So the 2nd option was Oahu WorkLinks in Dillingham where they served both adults and youth, although they ended up fitting me into the adult program, in which I did not have so much contact with youth. As I entered my current specialization year, I was fortunate to land a practicum with the Department of Education's Project AWARE which was funded to provide enhance safety and mental health approaches to the schools and community for 5 yrs that included for the first time Social Work practicum sites. I was placed at Leihoku Elementary School in the Nanakuli-Waianae complex that provided a subsidy for 2 grand per semester designed to offset the expenses associated with travel. The allowance of Social Work interns in public school sites allowed representation of services within this arena throughout the school days in which this complex lack. There are school social workers, but they cover multiple schools in the complex and are only present on average once to twice a week in which from my experience, are focusing more on the attendance problems present within this complex than other services school social workers provide. On the downside, because it is a pilot program and it is their 1st year funding social work interns, there was not much guidance for us within this profession in school sites. Our supervisor for the program was hired midway in the last semester and even then it was still difficult at one point to work alongside our conditions within our site due to not working within the schools. Although, it allowed me to be more pro active in learning, growth and distinguishing the social work role from other positions within the school, in which our former practicum coordinator addressed about when discussing possible field placements this year. In addition, I've also found interest in working with children and trauma through this practicum.”

Jessica Valdez, BSW 2014, moved to Seattle following her BSW graduation to pursue her MSW at the University of Washington. She received her MSW in Spring 2015 and is currently working for Asian Counseling and Referral Service in south Seattle as a Projects Specialist. “I'm also involved in community organizing with GABRIELA Seattle, a local chapter of a national and international grassroots organization that works to advocate for, educate on, and defend the rights and dignity of Filipinas globally. GABRIELA Seattle partners with other community organizations national and international coalitions to fight for and build solidarity towards social justice and equity.”

Wayne Doc Wilson, MSW 2014, is working as an outpatient associate clinical social worker at Pacific Grove Psychiatric Hospital out of Riverside California.

Sarah Herndon, MSW, 2014, is now an LMSW and moved to Tucson, Arizona following graduation.  “I currently work as a Licensed Medical Social Worker for patients with chronic and terminal illness. In my spare time, I volunteer at our local animal shelter, PACC, and serve on the Board of Directors for an anti-human trafficking organization called Southern Arizona Against Slavery. I live with my partner, Eric, and have three rescue pitbulls that keep me busy! To keep myself well-cared for, I began backpacking around the world and competitive running.”

Beverly Rowe, MSW 2009, is an LCSW working for the Department of Veteran Affairs. She wants you to know that “I Love my job! So blessed to have an awesome job with an awesome team.”