By Sloane M. Perron, Manager of Marketing Communications
For Meaghan Walsh ‘21 G’22, social work is not just a job, it is part of her family legacy. Growing up, Walsh watched her relatives serve in the social work field. It was then that she realized that the career perfectly complemented her empathetic nature and determination to help others.
“I like to tell people that half of my family are social workers and the other half need social workers,” Walsh joked about being immersed in the caring profession since she was young.
Originally, Walsh was pursuing her bachelor’s in social work in Boston but wanted a more affordable option closer to home.
“The second that I stepped on Anna Maria’s campus, it just felt like home. It was a smaller setting,” Walsh said, “I literally met my professors the day I toured and by the first day of school, they already knew my name. They are just super involved and committed to getting to know everybody.”
Walsh particularly appreciated all the hands-on learning opportunities that she received through internships throughout her BSW and MSW courses. While an undergrad student, Walsh interned at the Genesis Club and Pernet Family Health Service in Worcester. Later, she interned at Vernon Hill School as part of her studies as a graduate student. During her time at Vernon Hill, Walsh created a Take What You Need to Closet which supplies toiletries, clothes, and other necessities to low-income students and their families who are in need. Today, she still stays connected to the school and the drive she started.
Anna Maria’s internships provide job experiences which stand out on resumes and help students build networks of contacts within their career fields.
“It’s one thing to sit in a classroom and learn but it’s a completely different thing to be out in the field. I was able to experience what you would be doing on a day-to-day basis,” Walsh said, “It really prepared me for my work. The school I’m currently at has 700 students and 65 staff members. If I didn’t have the education I got from Anna Maria as well as my internship experience, I would have been a lot more overwhelmed.”
After graduating with her MSW this year, Walsh achieved her goal of becoming a School Adjustment Counselor at Roosevelt School in Worcester.
Jonathan Hardy-Lavoie G’22 is another example of a Social Work graduate student whose new degree presented him with new career opportunities.
“I knew that a master’s degree would open a lot of professional opportunities that wouldn’t be available otherwise,” he explained.
In addition to being a graduate student, Hardy-Lavoie also has a family and an established career in the social work field. As someone whose schedule was already packed, Hardy-Lavoie appreciated the flexibility of professors who understood what it was like to balance class work with real world challenges.
“The faculty were very willing to work with me. If I needed any accommodations
, or anything to be tweaked because of my particular knowledge base, they were more than willing to help. I also had a lot of professional responsibilities as I was working full time for the majority of my master’s program, and I have a significant other, and a child,” Hardy-Lavoie said about being a non-traditional MSW student, “So, I had a lot of responsibilities outside of my academic rigors that some of the other students in my program may or may not have had. However, the professors were very willing to be accommodating around those aspects as well.”
Because of his new graduate degree and extensive social work background, Hardy-Lavoie was offered a new role as a Behavioral Clinician at North High School in Worcester.
After the onslaught and emotional toll of the pandemic and lockdowns, professionals in these caring fields are needed now more than ever before. While the field can be challenging at times, Hardy-Lavoie is passionate about his career and believes that children with a higher degree of need deserve understanding and support.
“I love doing this work. I love working with children and youth and families and I’ve been doing it for long enough that I know that this is where I belong,” he said.
The next step in Hardy-Lavoie’s professional career is to take the initial licensure exam then the secondary exam in order to obtain his license as a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW).
Success and accomplishments come in many forms. For Hardy-Lavoie, his work is not about flashy accomplishments, instead he celebrates the small and meaningful milestones that the children he works with achieve through persistence and hard work.
“The most satisfying moments, and what makes you the most proud, is just a series of small accomplishments, the things that really make differences in people’s lives. So, when you see a student advocating for themselves in a way that you know that a year before, they would have never been able to, you know that you’ve had an impact. Or when you see that a parent is proud to see that their children’s grades have gone up, because they’re more easily able to navigate some social territory, then you feel happy for that parent,” Hardy-Lavoie said, “So it’s about the really small goals and it makes me get a little bit emotional talking about it. But it’s the really small things and seeing how people’s lives are improving, because you’ve been part of it.”
To learn more about Anna Maria’s MSW program and see how you can make an impact on the lives of others, please visit https://annamaria.edu/academics/graduate-studies/graduate-degrees/social-work-msw/ .