With great pride, Dr. Steven Huberman, dean of Touro College’s Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW), welcomed attendees to the sixth annual GSSW Award Recognition Program, which honored the graduating class of 2014. The event highlighted the graduates’ special accomplishments and honored David Mandel, CEO of OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services, with a Special Lifetime of Community Service Award.
The practice of play therapy offers children exactly what it promises: a chance to express themselves through games and toys in lieu of articulating what can be very complicated feelings. Straightforwardness of its name aside, play therapy is an incredibly nuanced method for approaching kids who’ve experienced trauma or are otherwise struggling behaviorally, and one that’s proven historically successful.
New York State’s BOCES (Boards of Cooperative Educational Services) program has been around for nearly seven decades. The organization’s stated goal has always been to “provide shared educational programs and services to school districts within the state,” but at times its services have been misinterpreted as an alternative classroom environment for “bad” or “trouble” kids who don’t fit in with mainstream public schools.
As GSSW Class of ’13 graduate Julia Katchen can tell you, adolescence is a crucial time for social-work intervention. Even the most confident teenagers cope with angst and anxiety, while others become nearly debilitated by the challenges of coming into their own. That’s why Katchen, like many aspiring social workers, has set her focus on youth. It’s a path she began paving during her own high school years.
GSSW Class of ’11 graduate Mia Artis first heard those words from her grandfather. And that’s only fitting, since for Artis, “family is the nucleus of it all.” In fact, while earning her Associate’s Degree at Kingsborough College, the mother of three brought all her children along to school. Even at their young ages of 8, 12 and 16, the kids already reflected their mother’s life lessons. “As a single parent, I didn’t have a choice,” she says. “They sat quietly through everything, even four-hour bio classes. They knew I was doing this for all of us.”
Sometimes, it helps to understand where a person comes from in order to help them persevere. GSSW Class of 2012 grad Cheryl Bogdan’s father was a factory worker, and money was scarce in their rent-stabilized Queens residence. The warmth and togetherness of a loving home and connected community was essential to her nurturing. Those values as Cheryl remembers, “Got me interested in housing issues and advocacy work.” After becoming the first person in her family to graduate high school, she was determined to “give back to the communities that gave so much to me.”
A small town on the coast of Columbia, Palomino suffers greatly from its close proximity to Venezuela and deteriorating border conditions. Veronica Olivares, a second year student at the Graduate School of Social Work, went there this summer as part of an art therapy internship to work with the children and young adults.
Alicia Regans has always been one with her city. The GSSW Class of ’14 alum jogs across Manhattan’s West Side or alongside the scenic Cross Island Parkway daily. It’s how she gathers her thoughts and finds peace and relaxation. That lifelong connection to New York also explains why her most painful memory was running toward the Twin Towers on 9/11 as a first-responder NYPD officer.
At 37, second-year Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) student Carla Giglio has only begun her journey. Going forward, a huge part of that will involve helping individuals who are finally coming home from tours of duty overseas. Last spring, the lifelong Queens resident took a several-months break from school and enlisted in the U.S. Navy, completing boot camp shortly thereafter. This fall, she’ll be among the lucky few GSSW participants in a new Touro scholarship initiative that offers hands-on experience rehabilitating returned combat soldiers. It will be plenty to juggle for the active Naval Reservist and part-time student (Giglio completes reserve training one weekend a month while taking classes) but it also presents a singular opportunity to advance her qualifications as a social worker looking to heal veterans.
Over 200 family and friends came to honor the achievements of this year’s 94 graduates of Touro’s Graduate School of Social Work. All students were recognized for outstanding achievements, and some called out for special attention.