Ready for the workforce, social work ‘superheroes’ celebrate

Standing behind the podium on stage in front of 300 other graduates of the University of Maryland School of Social Work (UMSSW), student lecturer Elijah McCabe, MSW ’22, began his remarks with an unusual request, asking his fellow graduates to consider the movie “The Avengers.”

Jazmin Morant’s family joins in celebrating her new Masters of Social Work degree.

“I will give a brief synopsis, spoiler alert. The villain arrives in New York, the heroes team up, the heroes defeat the villain. At the end of the movie, when the villain is defeated, the heroes celebrate their victory and move on,” McCabe told classmates gathered for the May 20 UMSSW graduation ceremony at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena. The event recognized graduates from December 2021, May 2022 and July 2022.

“Now, looking around the landscape, you see a completely desolate New York City. Buildings are flattened, cars are overturned, the city is in bad shape. But the bad guy is gone, the town is saved, right? McCabe continued. “As a social work student watching this movie, I’m starting to get stressed. Families displaced from their homes, reduced availability of social services, health care bills, insurance claims, the list goes on. But despite being a film set in a fictional universe, this story is all too real.

As social workers looking to fix big problems, McCabe said, “we don’t know the damage we’re leaving behind. Whether it’s harming communities of color, the LGBTQ+ population, homeless people, or even a client we work with one-on-one,” McCabe said. “It could be a program we developed that unwittingly harmed a community, or a policy we supported that has ramifications we didn’t foresee. All that to say, we’re not intentionally causing this damage, but it’s still damage.

His remarks were built around the theme of Social Work Month for 2022: “Now is the time for social work”.

“To add to the theme of 2022, I believe the time has come to indebted social work. Responsible to our customers, our colleagues, but most of all to ourselves,” said McCabe. “Being responsible for something we didn’t know we were doing in the first place isn’t easy, but it’s important work.”

McCabe noted that at the end of the movie “Avengers”, when the villain is defeated, the heroes all go out for lunch and celebrate their victory.

“So I’m hopeful that today we celebrate our victory, but tomorrow we strive to be more responsible social work superheroes,” he said to cheers from his classmates.

This was the first in-person convocation ceremony for the Dean of UMSSW Judy L. Postmus, PhD, ACSWwho arrived at the University of Maryland at Baltimore in July 2020.

“Graduates, I’m so proud of you today as you join our great profession of social work,” Postmus said. “You are the class that started and ended in the midst of a dual pandemic – COVID and racial injustice. You showed resilience, perseverance and simply a ‘commitment to perseverance’ when you started this program and that you have completed it today. All these qualities, negotiation, flexibility, change of course at any time, are all skills that you will need to enter this beautiful profession.

She shared five tips for new social workers.

  1. Be open to new opportunities and adventures along the way. Within three months of earning his MSW, Postmus began implementing new programs and supervising other social workers. “I never dreamed that I would be a dean one day since I graduated with my master’s degree in 1990, especially as a first-generation daughter of immigrant parents.”
  2. Never stop learning. Society is constantly changing and so are you. It’s as if we’ve been trying to walk on quicksand for the past few years. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from each other. Look for opportunities to expand who you are and the work you do.
  3. Take care of yourself.
  4. Be careful to align your values ​​with your mission and your work. “Remember why you became a social worker in the first place. Don’t hide from your mistakes. Be sure to find great supervisors and mentors along the way to stay focused.
  5. Find your tribe. “Find your network of other social workers with whom you can laugh and cry. These are the people who understand the work you do, why you do it, and support you along the way.

In her opening remarks, Shantay Jackson, Director of the Mayor’s Office for Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE), said she was honored and delighted to accept UMSSW’s offer to speak to graduates, but also a bit nervous.

“I, by practice, am not a social worker, and I didn’t immediately know what message I could deliver to this class not having the same background as all of you,” Jackson acknowledged. As the Director of MONSE, she is responsible for addressing violence as a public health issue, serving as an accountability partner for all city agencies and local, state and federal partners, making policy recommendations public safety and lead meaningful engagement with Baltimore neighborhoods in the work. to co-produce public security.

“But thinking about the message I could deliver is that this city, this world, needs good people like you,” she said. “People who are going to make this world a better place, people who understand that this work is bigger than themselves and that it takes a cohesive village or, in the dean’s words, tribesmen to truly implement impactful and lasting change in our communities. Welcome to the village, all of you.

As families posed for photos outside in the arena square, Glenda Morant couldn’t help but smile at her granddaughter, Jazmin Morant, MSW ’22who will soon begin putting his MSW to work for the Baltimore County Department of Social Services.

“She worked really hard, non-stop the whole time,” Glenda Morant said. “She’s a great blessing, and I’m very, very proud.”

“It really moved me forward,” added her granddaughter, reflecting on the work it took to graduate. “I’m proud of myself too. “It was a great experience”

To see the entire ceremony, watch the video above.

Michael A. Bynum