This year marks an exciting milestone for CUCS! A whole decade and twenty graduates later, the Mental Health Scholarship Program awarded by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) continues to be a wonderful opportunity for our staff and agency alike. The program represents the core of what our organization stands for, investing in training staff members to become great professionals and leaders in the field.
March is Social Work Month and we are celebrating the significance of the scholarship program in a three-part blog series. For this first part, we sat down with Linda Ricciardi, our Director of Staff Development who spearheads the student program, for insight into the scholarship program and impact on our staff.
Each year, DOHMH offers a total of twenty full-tuition Master degree scholarships city-wide to the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College for staff members at agencies they fund. CUCS has an average of six applicants a year, and normally three get the scholarship.
“What’s pretty amazing about that,” explains Linda, “is that DOHMH grants twenty scholarships a year borough-wide, to a pool of maybe 100 to 200 applicants. But every year, multiple CUCS applicants get the scholarship, which speaks highly of the agency and our staff.”
The program is two and a half years but even though the candidates are in school a bit longer than regular full-time students, they only do one placement (instead of two) and it’s at their job. While they’re in school, they are paid for their work and the scholarship takes care of all their classes.
“Candidates graduate without any Master’s loans and in this field it’s amazing given the low salaries,” says Linda, who also checks in with the students and supervisors throughout the year to make sure the program holds true to the principles. “It’s very easy to forget that they are students and just have them be workers the way they usually are,“ she explains.
“We are very invested in making sure that our clients get good care and we know that if we invest in the staff, we’re going to mold good professionals and that means our clients are going to get good care, whether it ends up being here or at another agency.”