Congratulations to our 2023 Social Work Graduates!
OUTSTANDING UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT:
Read all about Wynn's inspiring journey that brought her to graduation and winning the Colllege of Health and Human Services Outstanding Graduate Award! This honor is given to only two recipients (one undergraduate and one graduate student) in the College of Health and Human Services comprising 11 different departments and schools and over 70 degree programs. Wynn graduated with her BASW and had the honor of sharing her story and addressing the Class of 2023 at Commencement, held at Angels Stadium in May. Read Full Story
OUTSTANDING STUDENT CITATIONS (BASW)
Vannesa Bustos Diaz
School of Social Work Outstanding Applied Projects
- The project titled “Sound Mind, Higher Learning Mental Health Workshop”, group members:
- Randall Cox Jr.
- Jessie Licon
- Yadira Maldonado
- Ivet Torres
- The project titled “Horticultural Therapy: Gardening Workshop to Reduce Social Isolation among Senior Residents in Skid Row”, group members:
- Elnora Phu
- Guadalupe Gurrola
- Juan Castro
- Karina Palominos
School of Social Work Outstanding Thesis
Outstanding Thesis – Project
Jessica Di Rosa
Thesis Title: Meeting the End-of-Life Care Needs of the Non-Religious: A Curriculum for Social Workers
Thesis Title: Stress Among Healthcare Workers in California During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Graduate Student Honors
Jessica Di Rosa
Donnovan Vilchis Maldonado
Graduate Dean’s List Awards
Congratulations to all of our graduates! For a full list of graduates visit the Commencement Program
The mission of the School of Social Work is to provide professional social work education that inspires critical thinking and lifelong learning to students who will serve in diverse social work practice areas and roles, engage in collaborative research to contribute to the well-being of populations that are vulnerable and oppressed and advance social work knowledge, and strengthen our communities through meaningful partnerships.
While we commend and celebrate all CHHS graduates, here are a few graduates whose stories stand out because of their determination to overcome challenges, to follow their dreams, and to make a positive impact on the lives of others.
Nelson Acosta: Masters in Social Work; emphasis in Integrated Health
While at CSULB, Nelson Acosta worked as a peer mentor and was a member of Project Rebound. “As a child I never thought higher education was for me,” says Nelson. In his teens, Nelson battled addiction and was diagnosed with a mental illness. With his life struggles and experiences, Nelson decided to become a social worker. After completing his higher education journey, Nelson will look forward to being a professional in the mental health field, helping those with substance use problems. “I made this choice to give back, and CSULB not only offered me a great experience, but also the tools necessary to have a long-lasting career helping others.”
Nelson says that all his School of Social Work professors inspired him to be the best, most authentic version of himself. He wishes to thank his thesis advisor Jo Brocato, Dr. Burkett, Dr. Kilienpeter, and Justin Stallings and Jessica Polk for “getting the best out of me.”
Azucena Chavez: Major – Social Work
While at CSULB, Azucena interned for the Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services Center in the Foster Care and Adoptions Department. During her time at CSULB, Azucena says that her family has inspired her to continue to thrive. “They are my motor and strength to continue reaching the goals I set up to accomplish. They have kept me on my feet, ensuring I take care of everything that needs to be done, going to school, getting sleep, practicing self-care and embracing motherhood.”
Lorenzo Contreras: Major in Social Work
The biggest hurdle for Lorenzo Contreras during his journey to getting his Social Work degree was balancing work full time and attending classes full time in the evenings while balancing duties as a father. Through support of family and friends and extensive time management and scheduling, Lorenzo was able to meet all his academic expectations as well as maintain employment and be the best dad he could be and not skip a beat! Through overcoming life’s obstacles, Lorenzo identifies with the obstacles our youth face today. He has found a passion in becoming a helping professional. He gives credit to his seminar instructor Rod De Los Reyes, who he says was a huge support and leader to him.
“The way he is able to articulate what it means to be a social worker, has been nothing short of empowering and motivating. He made me feel heard and he truly appreciated who I was not only as a student but as a person. He has helped me to prepare for the next step with such a huge heart and love for his role as a leader.”
The most important thing that Lorenzo learned while being a social work student is that he says he now feels capable of being most useful in helping youth and communities see their goals and dreams come true.
Adriana Flores: Master in Social Work
The biggest challenge Adriana Flores experienced during her time as a student at CSULB in the School of Social Work was navigating school, her internships and life. She also struggled taking care of her parents and siblings when they had COVID-19 while she was attending school and her internships. “These challenges were tough for me to overcome; however, I completed the MSW program and navigated all my responsibilities successfully,” Adriana says.
Adriana chose to pursue a master’s degree in social work because she would like to impact her community positively by helping to strengthen families who need access to resources. She would also like to be instrumental in lobbying for policies that are aimed towards helping underserved children and their families. “The most important lesson I learned from my time at CSULB was always advocating for my clients, meeting them where they are at and to always hear them out. This has made a positive impact for me to communicate with my clients while I am out in the field.”
Casandra Gonzalez: Master in Social Work specializing in Child and Family Well-Being; Pupil Personnel Services Credential (PPSC)
Casandra Gonzalez chose her career path in social work because she is passionate about the pursuit of social justice, advocacy and cultural humility. One thing that has stuck with me is meeting the people we are helping where they are at, she says. Meeting people with kindness and patience, she says, will go a long way. She sites her own mentors and professors as being a great source of inspiration. “Professor Lisa Ibanez is the best advocate for her students,” Casandra says. “I had the pleasure of having her as a professor and she always emphasized being an advocate for those in need; I am so happy to have her as a role model.”
Maria Llanos: Masters in Social Work
During her first year in the MSW Program, Maria Llanos worked at an internship with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) which aims to serve the most vulnerable and at-risk individuals in the community. “I was the first MSW student intern accepted by LACDMH Southeast Region,” says Maria. In her role as an intern, she had the opportunity to collaborate with mental health and law enforcement teams. During her second year in the MSW program, Maria was granted the opportunity to intern at her agency of employment, Century Villages at Cabrillo, a permanent supportive housing community in the City of Long Beach, training for her future career as an intensive services case manager. “My MSW internship experiences have provided me with an opportunity to advance not just my career as a social worker but also in my professional and personal development. I will always be grateful to the School of Social Work at California State University, Long Beach.”
One of the many challenges Maria faced while attending CSULB was juggling a full-time job and attending class full-time. The two-year MSW program is a rigorous program that requires students to complete two fieldwork internships and a total of 1,000 service hours to fulfill the requirements for the degree. In addition, during her last year of the program, Maria made the decision to enroll at East Los Angeles College to finish her associate’s degree in real estate and launch her business as a Realtor. “For me, time management is crucial. As a single mother, and the sole provider for my daughter, I knew going into the School of Social Work program part-time work was not an option for me. By fostering positive relationships and communicating with my professors, field supervisors and work managers, I was able to overcome many of the challenges I faced. As a social worker, I acquired the skills to advocate for myself and seek support when necessary. I want to especially thank Dr. Susan Salas, Director of Field Education in the School of Social Work Program, who believed in my ability to succeed in the master’s program after graduating with my BSW at CSULB and having her as my seminar instructor. She has had a significant impact on both my life as a student and my professional career as a social worker. She inspired me every day to believe in myself, work hard, and persevere to accomplish my goals at CSULB.”
Tyler Tran: Master in Social Work
During his time at CSULB, Tyler Tran was the President of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Social Work club and intern at Hoag Mental Health Outpatient Clinic.
“I chose my career path because of my personal experiences with mental health issues and seeing the stigma first-hand within an Asian-American household,” Tyler says. Tyler hopes to be an advocate for mental health issues and become a clinical therapist to provide therapy and mental health services to disadvantaged populations.
While a student, Tyler says the most important thing he learned was how vital self-care is – maintaining one’s own mental health in order to serve and help others on their mental health journey. Tyler says he was a frequent rock climber at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center and says he has learned to cherish great friendships to support his own mental health.
Tyler cites Professor Nagai in the MSW program as being a great influence. “She is an incredibly compassionate, patient and caring professor.” Her classes are very intriguing and engaging, and I have learned a lot about the field of social work from her.”
Joseph Valadez: Masters in Social Work
Though Valadez has already been offered positions at non-profits upon graduating, Valadez said that he hopes with his master’s degree will put him in a position to help at-risk youth, who are often overlooked due to funding being funneled into adult programs.
As a kid, Valadez said he remembers contemplating whether or not to hang with his homeboys or join a gang before straying down a seemingly irreversible path.
“There was a time that I was teeter-tottering,” Valadez said. “That I was scared to get involved because I knew where it was going to lead me. And guess what? It led me where I didn’t want to go. After a while, I started enjoying it. But what about when I was just teeter-tottering? That’s when we need to get them, when they’re having that moment.” Courtesy, Daily 49er Read More
Darwin White: Master in Social Work
The journey that led Darwin White to obtaining his master’s degree in social work was long and arduous. He was first incarcerated at the age of 11 and was in and out of prison until age 44. He struggled with addiction for over 35 years and was an active gang member since he was 9 years old. He has been clean and sober now for almost 15 years. Education, he says, played a big part in his turnaround. He received an AA with honors and his Bachelor’s Cum Laude with a 3.7 GPA. Now as a master’s candidate, he would like to impact as many struggling people he can with his story, which he says included, “a lot of struggles with a real positive ending.” He adds, “Those who may have similar backgrounds and to those who just need to know, I want to say that if you are determined you can conquer whatever you put your mind to, regardless of where you come from.” White grew up in a single family home in the City of Hawaiian Gardens. He himself now has three children ages 16, 12 and 10 – two girls and a boy. Darwin White owns his story and has come full circle. Congratulations to this year's School of Social Work graduates!