Many experiences drive my keen desire to become a professional social worker. At XXXX Hospital, I serve as a Clinic Support Worker in the Emergency Department. I assist with patient flow in the clinic while helping ease anxiety and provide a warm, caring, and very patient-friendly environment. I also volunteer at XXXX Children's Centre serving with the Childcare Support Program, providing activities, behavior management, and a safe environment for children dealing with mental health concerns and receiving services. My experiences in social work have resulted in my intense determination to advance my graduate education and career as a social worker with a solid focus on mental health. I am also most keen to do this at the University of XXXX. I have been working in numerous volunteer positions for several years, and all have reinforced my desire to earn the MSW degree at the U of X. An avid reader from early on, I spend most of my spare time reading in the areas of community, public, and mental health issues facing Canadians.
After attending a conference on the social determinants of health for Canadians, sponsored by the group Sick Kids, I became a member of an Upstream Lab newsletter group that sends out information blasts from Dr. Andrew Pinto at St. Michael’s Hospital, calling attention to innovative studies and projects that are illuminating our horizons through research into social determinants. Volunteering as a crisis hotline telephone counselor, helping young adults, adolescents, and children work through their problems, also steered me toward social work. I enjoy exercising my compassion and understanding, lending a listening ear and a helping hand. I love educating people on resolving problems and overcoming hurdles through determination and creativity. Nothing excites me as much as education and therapy through Social Work. Finally, I also have experience as a social worker serving in a women’s detention center; this position helped me understand the vast need in Canada for social workers focusing on mental health, especially those individuals suffering from concurrent disorders or dual diagnoses. The social workers that I have thus far had the privilege of working with have also inspired me, some more than others, especially those that have shown themselves to be exemplary social workers who give of themselves without measure on the front lines of primary care to needy families and victims of violence who have very few resources to help them survive and overcome their challenges.
I was born and raised in Toronto, but my parents were refugees, immigrating to Canada while fleeing a communist country and searching for a better life. Their years spent in the university were of limited value because the Western-Canadian system did not recognize their degrees. Thus, they had little choice but to spend their professional lives working in low-skill, low-pay, entry-level employment positions. This taught me a sense of respect for multicultural dignity, languages, and the resilience of the human spirit. My parents worked hard with conviction and determination to give their children a better life, instilling an appreciation for higher education. I look forward to a lifetime of putting creative ideas into practice.
As a social worker in a female corrections center, I listened to the myriad ways that poverty, precarious employment, mental health, addiction, and poor housing conditions often lead to disastrous outcomes: physical, psychological, legal, etc. I had a huge caseload and witnessed almost all of my clients wrestling with complex social issues that affected their health. This included a woman in her mid-20s who was homeless, making it especially challenging for her to stay on top of her HIV treatment or get help managing her drug use. She, in turn, often resorted to criminal activity to survive. Another woman in her 40s, living with schizophrenia and anorexia nervosa, with a history of precarious employment and irregular income, had been unable to pay for her medications or successfully obtain legal support. She lived in a social housing building rife with violence, constantly triggering her anxiety and PTSD. I provided care and support to these women as best I could. I also witnessed and listened to the strategies these women have developed to support their health in the face of societal and systemic inequities - learning as much, if not more, from these women than they learned from me.
Most of the women I worked with were of one minority group or another, reflecting the color of poverty in Canada. Thus, diversity is fundamental to my mission: uplifting and protecting, inspiring the poor, those who have had most of the cards stacked against them early on. I am drawn to urban neighborhoods with very ethnically mixed populations, and it is in areas of Toronto such as this where I look forward to distinguishing myself. I especially look forward to researching health disparities at the U of X and the issues that sometimes lead to social worker burnout. An avid participant in class, I very much enjoy contributing to discussions. I enter every classroom and placement setting with great zest and energy; and a commitment to keeping an open mind and sharing – particularly as a social worker especially concerned with marginalized sectors of the community.
My most substantial accomplishment in my social work journey has probably been what I did with the Youth Health Action Network (YHAN). I contributed extensively to developing a written deputation about the health implications for youth exposed to cigarette smoking. Along with my group, I proposed amendments and improvements to the regulations on outdoor smoking to the Board of Health, suggesting further prohibition of smoking in public areas where youth congregate. We submitted a letter of support, which was assessed and approved by City Councilors. Our main objective was to give youth a voice by creating forums for discussion on tobacco and health and building relationships with politicians to establish accountability.
Youth often believe that their voice will not make much of a difference or that older people control the direction of events. I was adamant in explaining the importance of change and speaking out for what was relevant to them. I helped teach young people how to communicate with politicians and board members and deal with plans and schedules to be negotiated. I also learned how (and how not) to organize large-scale events, think on my feet, handle unpredictable situations, develop creative solutions, and use quick decision-making techniques to deal with sudden challenges with no warning. I gained confidence, knowing that I have the resilience and skills necessary to handle unpredictable situations and develop creative solutions on the spot. It was a learning experience, a risk, and an accomplishment that has enormously impacted my long-term goals and advanced work ethic. I was awarded the Nancy C. Sprott School of Social Work Leadership Award due to how my student engagement with YHAN and my work with the National Eating Disorder Information Centre. This project also resulted in my being selected as a Research Assistant for the Reimaging Parenting Possibilities Project. This study explored how people with developmental or intellectual disabilities imagine becoming parents. The formal assessment for the position was extensive and demanding. The two-part interview process first involved a session with the research team and self-advocates. I was selected from several applicants to manage the study with managerial assignments and develop a literature review based on an accumulation of the support services and programs available for parents with a developmental or intellectual disability in Ontario.
One contemporary social issue I am especially concerned with is the lack of supportive housing assistance for people with mental health challenges and addictions. Without adequate or suitable housing, people do not have the means to take care of their most basic needs. Female inmates suffer from mental health issues that go undiagnosed, unregulated, and unmanaged due to the vicious chains of addiction that were treated as the top priority. I focused on discharge planning with each female inmate. I hope to have more time to devote to studying the gender, ethnicity, and demographics of the homeless in Canada, especially in Toronto. I look forward to paying particular attention to the large numbers of homeless Indigenous Canadians throughout Canada. Finally, I look forward to continuing my engagement with women, helping them survive the justice system and rebuild, regain custody of their children if possible, or see them again. Unfortunately, many of them become homeless after being released from jail.
I am told that many homeless people must spend years on a waitlist before getting a place to sleep in Toronto, irrespective of its harsh winters. As a social worker, it is my responsibility to facilitate the voices of the voiceless being heard. I currently work primarily in disability, and many Ontarians desire to see more efforts made to provide the community with supportive, affordable housing opportunities. They emphasize the importance of obtaining financial assistance in seeking an apartment or other shelter, especially if they have been homeless or experiencing severe mental health or other health concerns. Elevated levels of support are needed for clients with mental health and substance abuse challenges. I have volunteered for the Out of the Cold Program, which continues to struggle mightily to respond to the great need for a warm place to spend the night for hundreds of homeless people.
As an MSW Professional trained at the U of T, I look forward to deepening my engagement in helping Toronto’s homeless. I can think of nothing that would bring me as much joy as having an opportunity to fill a position of leadership in this area where I would work to implement policies that are based on the real-life concerns, recommendations, and insights of those who will be using the service. My philosophy concerning the homeless is that we must build on lived experience. Any successful attempt must have at its core the support and effort, sacrifice, and hard work of at least some team members who were once homeless.
How do you think that the XXXX Faculty of Social Work MSW program can benefit you, and how do you think that you can contribute to the program? Please provide specific examples of how you will use your education in the future.
XXXX School of Work is my first choice for earning the MSW. I already have an MSW Degree from XXXX University, and I now feel most ready to make the same degree at the premier university in Canada, the University of XXXX. I will discuss this in the next section asking for special consideration of my circumstances. I am currently enrolled at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and am pursuing a solution-focused brief therapy certificate. My goal of applying to the University of XXXX to earn my master's degree in social work with a focus on mental health has also been strengthened by my experience working in an office that processes medical applications to determine whether an individual can be considered disabled based on provincial legislation. I have learned that social workers can play critically essential roles in helping people to navigate the multiple layers of bureaucratic challenges.
U of X’s MSW program incorporates a practicum to gain experience while one is still studying – integrating practice and learning. XXXX is where I will be able to develop the most thoroughgoing clinical understanding of how the mental health system operates and the best location to prepare myself for a lifetime of advocacy on behalf of the mentally ill. I also look forward to intensively studying ecological approaches to mental health inquiry. I seek to develop my understanding as fully as possible at the U of X concerning how trauma and problems with family relations tend to provoke or aggravate the symptoms of mental health illness or distress. As an overnight phone counselor, I spoke with many struggling people on our crisis/ support line; and I find that many of them are thankful to find someone willing to listen to their stories and help to validate their feelings. I was also fortunate to have volunteer experience assisting a clinician at a children’s mental health treatment agency, where I helped to work with a 6-year-old who, I was told, had attempted to end his own life.
Realizing that mental health issues could affect individuals even at their earliest stages was a turning point for me. This was my first encounter of many with this mother and her young child. Soon, I would become a familiar face to them. Therapy sessions - where I spoke with a mother stricken by fear and shame and a son who tried to understand his actions - would become a safe space for them to share their story. In time, fear and shame would be replaced by hope and change. I have experienced immense gratitude when a child’s mental health concerns are validated, and a family’s crisis is normalized so they can develop hope for a better future. I look forward to sharing some of these experiences with my colleagues at the XXXX School, some of the most promising students of Social Work in the World.
I earned my first MSW at XXXX University because I was wait-listed rather than accepted to the University of XXXX at that time. I was extremely disappointed that I was not accepted to your program, although I did feel that it was an honor to have made the waiting list. Because I was anxious to start my graduate-level Social Work classes, I decided to attend Ryerson, where I earned my degree in Social Work. I would like to now think of the MSW that I earned at Ryerson as a practice run, preparation for earning the same degree at the flagship program in Canada, the XXXX School of Social Work at the University of Toronto.
Earning my second MSW, this time at the U of X is of fundamental, critical, and vital importance to my chances of advancing in my field. On several occasions, I have been passed over for promotion or a supervisory position because the other applicant for the job was a graduate of the U of X; and, thus, seen as better qualified. My central dream is to have another opportunity to earn the MSW at the University of XXXX so that I will achieve the preparation and credentials to make my maximum contribution to my field.
I was not a good fit with the program at XXXX, and I could not realize my fullest potential in that setting or receive adequate preparation for achieving core professional goals. I kept thinking afterward that I should have been faithful to myself and worked to enhance my credentials to apply again to the U of T the following year. I made a mistake and felt as though I had sold myself short. Thus, I hope to get another chance to make up for my mistake and have an opportunity to succeed in my dream. It would be a special honor for me to study under Drs. XXXX and XXXX, psychiatrists and exceptional professors engaged in eating disorders at Sick Kids Hospital and Toronto General Hospital. I have a lot of passion and knowledge about body image and eating disorders in women and girls. I am excited about the prospect of sharing – this and many other topics - with my colleagues in the Social Work community at the University of XXXX.
Thank you for considering my circumstances and unique dream.
MSc Social Work Personal Purpose Canada Corrections