10 years and 20 Master Degrees Later – PART II
March 17, 2016

For Part II of our Social Worker Scholarship blog series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Anica Velez, our Director of CUCS Institute’s Housing Resource Center and one of NYC Department of Mental Health and Hygiene’s Mental Health Scholarship Program recipients. Anica graduated in September 2015 with her Master’s in Social Work. Here is what she had to say about her experience, her support system, and the impact the program has had on her.

How did you get into the Master’s program?

I was very resistant in pursuing a Master’s in Social Work for quite a few years. I already have a Master’s degree in Forensic Psychology and thought that would be good enough. Then Eda Franco, my director at the time, encouraged me to apply, explaining that the field of social services is moving towards really wanting licensed social workers and I should pursue it in order to not limit myself from potential opportunities. I applied and got in, and even though it was a little daunting going back to school after ten years, it was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I ever made.

Going back to school after ten years can certainly be daunting. Did you have a support system in place?

I had a lot of support from my supervisor who worked with me on developing the field placement plan. Linda Ricciardi, our Director of Staff Development, was also amazing and kept me sane throughout the program. She would check in and let me know that I could go to her and constantly reminded me to take time out for myself. She was instrumental for me and I really hope to be that same resource for other students one day.

Why do you think it is important for CUCS to promote the program?

I think it is amazing the amount of support CUCS gives to this. The organization really grooms and invests in the staff and in building them up for internal and external opportunities. Even if the individual eventually leaves CUCS, the world of social services is small enough that we are all interconnected and odds are we will touch each other’s lives somewhere down the line again. It also means that you are working with professionals who are well trained and understand the impact that every decision can have on a life. It is incredible that CUCS has put so many people through the program and I think it helps the organization stay on the forefront of up and coming social workers.

What impact did the program have on you?

I was already a Director so it did not result in any upward movement, but the biggest surprise and payoff has been the different lens in which I view everything through now. I approach work and my interactions with staff differently, and a lot of reflection has taken place. This has helped me the most and it has completely changed the way I work.

It also had an everlasting impact on my personal life. When I went for the group interview, I met a woman I interviewed with, a fellow student. We became fast friends and supported each other throughout the entire program. We are still best friends to this day, hands down.