Here's my final personal statement I'm submitting with a culminating binder portfolio. Yes, I'm actually submitting this.
When I began the BASW program at the University of Washington I was generally an optimistic, idealistic and naïve person. Now? Well, at least I’m still idealistic. Sort of. Being in the undergraduate program has been like opening up the stomach cavity of humanity and being forced to see and smell the pulsating entrails normally covered by flesh and skin. I’ve come to understand at a very deep level the mechanisms of oppression, the context of history with social problems and the seemingly insurmountable odds we find ourselves up against as social change “agents.” While the world may seem bleak at times, I’ve learned that because of my existence as a social worker, it is now and always will be marginally less so. Slow clap.
As a result of being in this program, I’ve had to adapt and survive through self-care. In the morning I would learn about how black people were lynched and used as sex slaves. Then, I’d go to coffee with my classmates and try not to cut myself.
The School of Social Work encourages students to think critically and independently. Well, in this school, I sure have learned how to do just that. While the school may imply that social workers are responsible for the fate of all oppressed populations everywhere, and that if we don’t do something, then no one will, I know in my heart that this is simply not true. I refuse to live in agony and misery, wallowing in privileged guilt and an unhealthily metastasized savior-complex. While I am aware of the plight of vulnerable populations, I as one individual, can only do so much. I will do what I can to address poverty, violence and suffering in the world, but once I’ve put in my eight hours for the day, I will surrender myself to a coping mechanism entitled fatalism.
When I leave this place, the School of Social Work, I will forever have on my goggles of “awareness.” Trust me, even when I try to enjoy something as mindless and popularly entertaining as The Hunger Games, for example, I will end up writing a five-page analysis of its major themes with respect to power and oppression. I will carry with me ecological-systems theory, empowerment theory, the ethnic identity development model, cultural responsiveness (the dialogic model, of course) and the strengths perspective. These theories have affected the way I interact with people, whether in my professional or personal life; I have internalized them that much.
In terms of “staying current” with social welfare, I’ll always feed my insatiable compulsion to “be in touch” with the reality of the underclass, whether it be through the NPR public health blog (Shots), The Seattle Times, National Geographic, literary fiction or memoirs of people who have survived horrific circumstances (e.g. Strength in What Remains, Desert Flower, Persepolis). It is my duty as a professional social worker to stay informed, and informed I will stay!
My strengths as a social worker are my ability to articulate forms of oppression, my critical thinking, my self-reflection and my ability to establish rapport with clients through genuine warmth and caring. Areas for growth would be maintaining professional boundaries with clients, political advocacy and research-informed practice.
It has certainly been an interesting ride, this BASW experience. I’ve had my hopes crushed into a finely ground powder, then snorted through someone’s nose. I’ve learned to be much more realistic, to reject martyrdom and to enjoy life for what it offers. As a social worker, I may not be able to fundamentally change the structure of society to uplift the downtrodden and usher them into an age of triumph, true brotherhood and utopian parity. However, I’ll do my small part, quietly, without heraldry or accolades, humming a pop ballad from the 1990s.
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”