Charles Daniels '12 M.S.W.
Clinical Social Worker in the Men's Health and Recovery Program at the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC).
Charles Daniels provides psychosocial support to men in transition while continuing the initiative that he founded as an Albert Schweitzer Fellow for Life. Called Fathers' Uplift, Charles's program helps low-income men overcome barriers that prevent them from being present in their children's lives.
What the job entails: In his new role at BPHC, Charles counsels men who are working to overcome substance abuse, obtain permanent housing, or re-enter society after prison. Many face a combination of these challenges. Charles provides individual psychotherapy and conducts psychosocial assessments and intake screenings, as well as links his clients to outside support services. A big part of his position is facilitating therapy groups; he leads one focused on managing anger and another on overcoming depression and anxiety during recovery. Charles also has expanded Fathers' Uplift at BPHC. In addition to counseling, the program now includes a formal curriculum to support men as they take action to improve their relationships with their children. "We're supporting these men as they make the hard phone calls or learn about child support," says Charles. "Our goal is to help them realize their full potential and not let their pasts define them."
How Simmons prepared him: A graduate of the SSW's Urban Leadership Program, Charles completed placements directly related to his mission. In his first, he provided therapeutic support to families, including group work with fathers, at the Kennedy Center, a multi-service nonprofit in Charlestown. His second internship was at BPHC, where he led a psychotherapy group for fathers in recovery. Whether he was applying for the fellowship or shaping opportunities in the field, Charles reports that he received highly supportive mentoring at Simmons. He describes the experience as "integral" to his transformation as a clinician and a leader.
Why it's rewarding: Charles sees tangible and inspiring changes in the men who are in his programs. Recently, he published a chapter about his work in Riding the Mutual Aid Bus and Other Adventures in Group Work, a book of first-person accounts by social workers for use in college social work courses. "I believe that we can fundamentally understand the obstacles that many fathers face," says Charles. "And through taking a nonjudgmental standpoint, we can find the strategies to address them."
Alaine Kiera Fredericksen '12 M.S.W.
Social Work Fellow in the Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine at Boston Children's Hospital.
Alaine Kiera Fredericksen was selected in a competitive process that draws applicants from across the country. This prestigious one year position not only allows Kiera to follow her "passion and calling" for working with teens; it also provides her with structured post-graduate training in her clinical specialty and interdisciplinary opportunities within a nationally regarded pediatric medical center.
What the fellowship entails: Kiera reports that she must be ready for almost any clinical situation. "We help a diverse population in terms of background but also in terms of need," she says of the department. "Depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are among the mental health struggles that we frequently see."
Kiera delivers individual therapy to patients ranging in age from 12 to 24. She assists with the mental health assessment process for the Primary Care Practice and the hospital's nationally recognized eating disorder program. In addition, she is on call weekly to handle urgent mental health needs. As a fellow, Kiera attends programming that expands her knowledge of adolescent medicine and all areas of the hospital. She takes classes on such topics as psychopharmacology and research/statistics and participates in conferences and grand rounds.
How Simmons prepared her: With guidance from the SSW's Field Education Department, Kiera pursued rigorous placements focused on the whole family — both adolescents and adults. At Travelers Aid Family Services in Boston, she developed versatile case management skills and helped families in need access state and local resources. In her second internship at Cambridge Health Alliance, Kiera sharpened her individual and group therapy skills in the outpatient addiction program, counseling clients age 18 and up.
"The effects of substance abuse are so pervasive — beyond just the person who's using," she says. "This perspective now informs how I work with my clients at Children's."
Why she loves her position: Kiera reports that her fellowship is more than just a rewarding start to her social work career; it has immediately put her on the path to lifelong learning. "The position allows me to continue to explore and grow in a fantastic medical setting," she says. "I'm able to build on my clinical skills and practice with even greater empathy."
Ylira Pimentel '12 M.S.W.
Outpatient Clinical Social Worker at Massachusetts General Hospital's Chelsea Healthcare Center.
Hired shortly before graduation, Ylira provides psychotherapy to individuals and families with broad — and urgent — needs. Although she works with many adult clients, her primary focus is improving the lives of children and adolescents.
How Simmons prepared her: A native Spanish speaker, Ylira brings strong experience to her new position: she completed her second-semester field placement at the Center. For her first placement, she worked as a family therapist at the Latin American Health Institute in Boston. Both positions allowed her to apply the comprehensive theoretical knowledge that she gained at Simmons. "Each and every course was crucial to my development," says Ylira. "I used techniques I learned at Simmons — psychosocial assessment, cognitive behavioral therapy, and narrative therapy — on a daily basis."
How she got the job: As an SSW intern, Ylira made significant contributions to the Center. Collaborating with a doctoral student, she created and led a social skills/creative arts therapy group for adolescents — work that she will continue in her new position. She also proved that she could handle a wide range of challenges, including trauma, substance abuse, crisis intervention, immigration issues and, in particular, cases involving children of varying ages.
A former preschool teacher, she deepened her already formidable skill set by completing the SSW's Certificate in Multi-Contextual Treatment of Trauma. "I wanted an in-depth understanding of how trauma affects children and adolescents throughout their development," she says.
Not surprisingly, this versatile yet specialized background made Ylira a highly competitive candidate. She was offered several positions as she finished her degree.
Why she loves it: Raised in poverty stricken areas of Boston, Ylira connects to the struggles her clients face. "It's a very tough job, but it's also very inspirational," she says. "My clients have such resiliency. They've been through so much but are still trying to make it. I'm dedicated to their success."
Nicole Lamontagne '12 M.S.W.
Sibling and Group Social Worker at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston
A member of the medical center's Pediatric Psychosocial Oncology team, Nicole Lamontagne works to ensure that families dealing with a cancer diagnosis receive the fullest possible care and support.
What the position entails: Nicole's responsibilities are focused on meeting the needs of children and teens who have a sibling undergoing inpatient or outpatient cancer treatment at Dana-Farber. "Siblings are very often scared and displaced from their routines," explains Nicole. "I become their resource, a person who is there just for them."
Nicole describes her position as acute care. She connects families to services, performs individual therapy, counsels siblings and parents together, and assesses whether long-term therapy is needed. She also does group work with siblings and is collaborating with colleagues to create psychosocial groups for other populations, such as caregivers. As part of the hospital's end-of-life care, she helps to organize a bereavement day, in which siblings who have lost a brother or sister to cancer gather to do remembrance work.
In addition, Nicole says that her SSW coursework emphasized the importance of keeping an open mind — a critical perspective for her position. "Even though a family might be going through the exact same diagnosis as another, their experience is going to be different," she says. "There is a constant need to meet a family where they're at and to understand their unique challenges."
Why it's rewarding: For the families at Dana-Farber, a child's cancer diagnosis is often the most traumatic experience of their lives. To be able to support them, Nicole says, is a deeply affecting experience. "The parents and children are allowing me into this highly personal, terrifying time," she says. "I feel incredibly privileged to do all I can to help them through it."
Victor Ortiz, '10 M.S.W.
Admission Coordinator, Y.O.U., Worcester, Massachusetts
Victor Ortiz assists children with acute mental health needs as the admissions coordinator for Y.O.U., Inc., a multi-service nonprofit in Worcester, Massachusetts. Working closely with emergency rooms, mobile crisis teams, and families, he determines which treatment program/placement at Y.O.U., Inc. is most appropriate for a child in crisis. "A big part of my role is knowing how to talk to different people and navigate different systems with one goal in mind: how to service the child," he says. "And that's what you learn at Simmons—how to advocate for your client."
How Simmons prepared him: Victor had held many community-based jobs at agencies and organizations (including Y.O.U., Inc.), often with a focus on substance abuse and mental health. Yet despite an impressive résumé, he was lacking formal credentials. In 2009, Victor finished his bachelor's degree in social work, and went on to enroll at Simmons. Victor was accepted into the SSW's rigorous advanced standing program, which allows students with B.S.W. degrees to complete their M.S.W. in one year. His field placement at the Family Health Center in Worcester was especially challenging: he handled a caseload of 23 clients and conducted all of his counseling in Spanish. His dedication and achievements earned him competitive and prestigious scholarships while at Simmons from the National Association of Social Workers Foundation and the Council on Social Work Education. Recently, Victor started consulting for the Latino/a Behavioral Health Workforce Training Institute as part of a continuing-education program that aims to improve the number of licensed/certified Latino and Latina substance abuse counselors.
How he's changed: Victor describes himself as a more "balanced" practitioner in that he now has theory (Attachment, Neurobiology, and Social Work Practice was his favorite class) and clinical skills behind his natural gifts for service.
Anna Mancuso '10 M.S.W.
Clinical Social Worker, The Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights, Boston, Massachusetts
As a clinical social worker at the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights, Anna Mancuso assists refugees and asylum-seekers searching for a better life. In one day, she may counsel a Kenyan woman fleeing female genital mutilation, support a Tanzanian rape survivor, and advise an Iraqi man about medical coverage. "I'm providing therapy and psychosocial support to survivors of torture and war trauma," she explains.
Building self-awareness and skills: Mancuso arrived at Simmons with a B.A. in history and a master's in Public Health - and a desire to turn her interest in global human rights into a social work career. Her first experience working with trauma survivors came in her second year field-placement at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for Violence Prevention, a clinic for survivors of inter-personal violence.
Collaborative classes: Mancuso says that the room Simmons gives students to discuss their field placements with advisors and classmates provided a safety net of support and resources. "We spent a lot of time in class presenting cases and talking about people's work," she says. "It was a group process."
In her current position, Mancuso applies practice theories gleaned from her Assessment and Diagnosis and Psycho-Dynamic Approaches to Clinical Diagnosis classes. The results of the work never cease to move her. "My clients have survived incredible circumstances, yet they still see hope," she says. "There is something so rewarding and inspiring about helping people who are so down come back up."
Matthew McCall '07 M.S.W.
Senior Consultant, Workforce Learning and Development, The Home for Little Wanderers, Boston, Massachusetts
A 2007 graduate, Matthew McCall works as a senior consultant advising on clinical practices and services at the Home for Little Wanderers, New England's largest child and family agency. "Simmons changed me into someone who not only can handle the responsibility for agency-wide clinical training and oversight, but also program management and operation," he says. "I am able to develop a vision for the Home."
Learning to lead: According to McCall, the SSW's innovative curriculum on children and families and the Urban Leadership Certificate Program's emphasis on facilitating change ably prepared him for a position in the agency's administration. As part of his management responsibilities, he's stepped in to oversee a residential treatment program through a time of transition, established philosophies of treatment, and forged community and educational partnerships.M
"To help kids, you also need to be effective with families and communities," says McCall. "Simmons gave me that specialized skill set."
Daily inspiration: McCall praises the SSW for encouraging students to think hard about what it is that motivates them - and to carry their answers forward into their careers. McCall's hasn't changed: "Despite everything that they've experienced, the kids at the Home are so resilient and enthusiastic," he says. "If I can be part of that - even in a small way - what an incredible thing to do with my life."