Role Models

“Social work is a calling to help people.”

April 04, 2013
ANDREW PETERSEN: A role model can be anyone at any age who you look to for guidance, that you believe this person has something that you think is good. And that you want to take on, and you want to embody in yourself. And that's what a role model is for youth. And I hope that I have some of those qualities.

I've been working with youth for about eight years, everything from recreation programs to cultural and dance and art. Well, teens are experiencing a lot of things. There are good social workers who work with teens that are really understanding and sensitive. Adolescence is a very traumatic period, both socially and all these other ways for teens. And you have to be able to work with teens in a very individual way.

I've had a number of child abuse cases working in the Bronx, and I found them pretty terrible. It's one of the reasons why I wanted to become an advocate for youth and why I chose social work. I just would hope that they remember me positively, that I was a role model and someone that they looked up to, and just remembered as someone that they had a good experience with. Social work is a calling to help people. And also, it creates a sense of well-being, that I'm not just impacting one person, I'm helping a family. And that is a pretty rewarding experience to have.

All it took was a trip to Peru. Last year, Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) Class of ’13 student Andrew Petersen chaperoned nearly a dozen 15-year-olds to the exotic South American nation. Prior to that journey, his aspirations ranged from hopeful philosopher to future athletic trainer. But in Peru, he spent days and nights talking with teenagers and gaining insight into the challenges of contemporary adolescence.

Immediately after returning and unpacking his bags, Petersen applied to GSSW and has dedicated himself to providing advocacy and support for troubled teens. But he’s also learned it doesn’t end there. “It’s not enough to work with the individual,” he explains. “You really need to be able to work with the family. And when I can work with the family and make some progress, it’s an awesome moment.”

This is Andrew Petersen’s story.