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Achieve More with Athens Tech

Helping others as a Social Work Assistant

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In this episode, we will find out the details of the Athens Tech Social Work Assistant program.

Achieve More with Athens Tech, the official podcast of Athens Technical College.

A unit of the Technical College System of Georgia. Equal Opportunity Institution.

Welcome to achieve more with Athens Tech, the official podcast of Athens Technical College. This is where you'll discover how the programs at Athens Tech can connect you with in-demand and high paying careers. Today, we're going to look at the social work assistant program at Athens Tech.00:00:19S2Literally the day after she passed away. I said, I have to do this for my mom.00:00:23S3But I tell my students when I come into class on the very first day that we all come to social work for our own reasons.00:00:29S4It changes your life. I mean, it really I can honestly say that about that program.00:00:34S1Social work, assistance, work with individuals experiencing natural life transitions or unexpected life crises to assist them in obtaining the help needed while also making certain that they can reach their maximum level of independent functioning. Social Work Assistance have many social service job titles such as Casework, Aide, Clinical, Social Work, Aide, Family Service, Assistant, Addictions Counselor, Assistant and Human Service Worker. The populations with which social work assistance provide services are quite varied. They may work with children and families, people with mental illnesses or disabilities, the elderly, the homeless or the unemployed, to name a few. Social work assistance may work in schools, medical facilities, offices, residential facilities, shelters, or directly in homes and communities. The Social Work Assistance Program at Athens Tech prepares you to take on any of these roles.00:01:32S3Okay. Well, my buddy was the program chair for the Social Work Assistant Program known as OpenStack. And I have a master's in social work and I am a licensed master social worker and I do. My background is mental health and I've done a lot with disaster, mental health and emergency response over the years. And obviously the last 14 years I've been involved in the higher education and also development for social work in the field. So I do a lot of training in the field as well. When you look at social work profession as a whole, you have different levels of social work. So the social work assistant would be the first level. It is a pathway in the social work, so it provides education and training all the same concepts and theories and all of that as bachelors level social workers. But the mission and purpose is really to provide education and training for our students so that they can go into these agencies and seamlessly assist and work with the bachelors level, master's level and licensed social workers. So that's really the entryway to the profession.00:02:34S1We have an idea of what the program is and we have an idea of how it can work for you. But when we're looking at the social work assistant program, the real question is why?00:02:45S3So I think the person who is a good candidate is someone who is passionate about either making a change, maybe within their own lives, but also within the lives of people that's actually struggling. So what I would say is the person who comes in and they have this strong belief in the ability of a person to change. And what I tell my students when I come into class on the very first day is that we all come to social work for our own reasons. Now, some of it that we may have gone through something really difficult and we really needed some help and wished that somebody had been there to help us through that change. And, you know, or we have walked in on somebody that's endorsed something pretty difficult and we want to come in and make a difference in their lives and make sure that other people don't have to walk that walk alone.00:03:33S2Yeah, I'm my name is Todd Waller. I am still right now a student at Athens Technical College. Guess a little about me. I currently works social worker at a place called Fresh Look Recovery, but I also really like other things like running. And I'm a big runner trying to run a marathon next year. And I am an avid reader. I guess I'm kind of a nerd. The truth is, I kind of had a strange childhood and I was involved with defects and defects for a while as a child. And there was one social worker, I guess I'm pretty sure you have social workers image John Barksdale And the guy just loved me and really took care of me and made things happen for me that no one else was able to do. And he always stuck in my head and for years I worked in logistics and it was a good job and I was doing well, but it was a hard job and I was talking to my mom and she really wanted me to graduate from college at some point, and I didn't think I would ever go back to college simply because I just didn't think I needed it. She always wanted it and she she ended up passing away 2020. And literally the day after she passed away, I said, I have to do this for my mom. And so I toured the campus in athletics. All everything is all small classes. And the people I met, the teachers and I saw the social work program and I said, that's, that's it. That's what I want to be doing with my life. And fortunately I did end up loving it.00:05:10S1Todd Story is unique, but having a connection to social work in some way driving you to want to be part of the field is not uncommon.00:05:19S3So my name is Michelle Medlock. I am the program coordinator at Acceptance Recovery Center in Athens, Georgia. That is a 12 month long term intensive residential recovery center for adults seeking recovery from addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. I graduated from the Social Work Assistant Program at Athens Tech last year and I'm currently pursuing my B.S. w. And really excited to be here. I chose social work because my passion is addiction recovery. I'm a person in long term recovery myself, and so it was really important to me to be able to give back in a field that fro so freely gave to me. And to be able to most effectively serve the people that I work with. So I was I was already working in the field as a as from a peer support perspective. And so it was really important for me to to learn some new skills and to be able to clinically serve people.00:06:31S1Let me see this. Having a connection to social work the way that Todd Michel do is not a requirement for this program. However, having the desire to help people is a must, and it seems that being in the social work industry is a very good way to fulfill that desire.00:06:48S2When I was younger, I was removed from my house a few times for some familial issues, and when I met Mr. Barksdale, what the state was basically trying to do, they didn't I was they didn't have a placement for me. And so the only option they had was to put me in what was called a youth detention center, which was loud to me. And Mr. Barksdale put his foot down and made it possible for me to be accepted into another person's. My aunt's home for a few months while things got sorted out with my family. That was it. One example, he also did things where he would obviously do the social work stuff with me and fill out forms and take care of business. But he got to know me and build rapport with me on a personal level. And so for years, I considered Mr. Barksdale a mentor and a friend more than a social worker, even though he was doing the social work work itself. But I trusted him so much that I could talk to him like a friend. And I think that's a skill that I had admired in him as a social worker. And it's one I'd like to have with my clients. I think the biggest thing that he taught me, he never said these words, but it's true. He's I think the biggest thing he taught me is that, you know, in helping feel all help flows through relationships, right? I can be the best social worker in the world by, you know, helping people get funding from the government to do things, grants and scholarships that do all the paperwork. But if I can't build a relationship, even on a small level with the people that I work with, then I can't accomplish much. And I learned that from John Barksdale, that most relationships are so important, and I focus on that with my clients. Now, you know, of course I'm doing the work with them on helping them, but I need to know who they are. I need them to trust me, you know, I need them to want to talk to. And the truth is, a lot of social workers don't have that skill or they come in and fill out the forms and they're gone. And people are left with that with a thought like, well, he does. He doesn't care. He's just getting a paycheck. I don't want to get a paycheck. I like paychecks. But it's not about the paycheck. It's about I want to serve. And the best way to do that is through relationships, I find.00:09:02S1So those the skills that you'll learn in Athens tech. Yes, they are.00:09:07S3We have I think we have the best program. We have a really incredible group of students. We work really hard as a as a program, which is our instructor. They've got incredible instructors that are all our social workers. So they bring their experience into the classroom every day. And our student students learn from that, from that, you know, that experience that they have. So our classes are small start classes. I've never more than 20 students in number and we want our students to learn to develop relationships with their colleagues. So all of our classes are very active, engaged classes we're doing where you're reading out, you're seeing it, you're doing it a lot of hands on work in the classroom. So the classes that students will take, there's the basic intro classes where you learn about social work in the practice areas. And we are a very broad profession. We have, you know, many, many practice areas you can go into. So the first class really goes into the practice areas. And we also teach about case management, human behavior, behavioral health group work. We've got a couple of courses, one on addictions and one in domestic and family violence. We have a couple of specialty courses where students will learn about working with children in their families. Another one is working with people who are older. That's the area of gerontology, and that's actually one of the fastest growing areas of social work. So we've got a really wide range of 14 social work courses. Of the 1412 we're required and then we have two internships. So once a student works their way through the first part of the program, at the end of their program, they'll do a capstone course, which is a group work intervention course, and then they'll do two internships. And a partner agency in the community. And we tried to make sure that we connect with our partners in our 11 counties in this area. And our goal is to prepare our students again, to get out into the workforce and be workforce ready so they go out ready to work. That said, many, if not most of our students plan to go on to earn their bachelors in social work and even amounts in social work. So they're getting out and they're working, but they're also going on to their four year degree and beyond. The classes were amazing, really hands on. The instructors were I'll never forget, especially Miss Watts. Rather than really abstract concepts, I felt like it was directly the things that are need to know in the field. What I found in my bachelor's program is there's a lot of kind of there's a lot of concepts which of course, we learned at Athens Tech. But I think starting at Athens Tech, we it was starting out with just the foundation, like what you need to know to really get into the field, the basics without adding in all this, this extra stuff that you learn in a bachelor's program. And so it was a really the best way for me to to get my foot in the door. From a social work perspective.00:12:18S2I'll literally be sitting in my favorite teachers class, Dr. Bernard Hill. He'll talk about things like we had this one class is called Interviewing Techniques, Fantastic class. And basically the whole idea of the classes, when you're in a therapeutic session, how do you behave and stuff like that. And he will talk a lot of a lot about things like even simple things like posture, how are you sitting? And I look back and I think of Mr. Barksdale and he was always sitting, attentive. He was into what I was saying, even if I was talking about a baseball game, you know what I mean? And then other things I've learned, this is a strange one, but like when you're in a therapeutic session, how emotionally involved are like do I reach out and touch the client on the shoulder with the crying? What feedback to do I give in a tough situation and that's a tough thing to navigate. You know, a lot of people aren't good at dealing with people who are very emotional in the moment. It's a skill I'm still developing. But Mr. Barksdale was very good at that. He kind of navigated that well. He was able to change the subject to a more positive subject when he needed to, but he was also able to stay in the moment and process the emotions that were actually happening. Now, interviewing techniques really helps me focus on how do I process these emotions with the client. It's just I practice it in my job every day. I mean, I, I work with men in recovery. So I'm constantly, you know, discussing really personal emotional details in my natural instinct is to go, oh, you know, I want to talk. That's uncomfortable. But the therapeutic techniques at your school, Mr. Barksdale, is you kind of feel you go into that uncomfortableness and become comfortable with it. I mean, that's a skill. Like I said, I'm still developing, but it's one I'm focused on in a way. I'm glad to have SEC focuses on it too. It's an important part of what I do, so do it at the set.00:14:05S1Let's talk to a real life employer that hires graduates from the Social Work Assistant Program at Athens Tech.00:14:11S3So I'm Grace Arthur. I am one of the clinical supervisors with bright paths. And Bright Paths has had several names over the years. We've actually been around for 30 years, but we were formerly called Prevent Child Abuse Athens, and that name is a little bit off of pudding. So we have in the last couple of years changed the name of our organization to Bright Paths. But with whatever name we have had, we've been involved with Athens Tech for probably over, I'd say close to 15 years now. We've worked with the social work program, specifically the social work assistant students have to do an internship or a practicum. And so we have had multiple students from that program come through our site as interns. And we've hired I want to say, we've hired four of those students that have come through full time.00:15:08S1What skills or traits do people need to be successful in the field.00:15:12S3To be good at? In the field of social work, you have to be interested in people and you have to you need a thick skin because people come in all kinds of situations and with all different needs, and that can be anybody. There's not one group that can benefit from a social worker. So you kind of have to be interested in people and you have to be willing to get to know people and meet people where they're at. And I think most people do not go into social work for the money. They go into it because they care about people. They're helpers, naturally so. Earnout is it's a big issue and it really does depend, I think, on where you're working and on the support that you get within your workplace. And but it's also very rewarding and it's not rewarding in the financial sense. It's rewarding in the sense that you actually have a job where you impact people's lives and you get to have, I don't know, a small place in making the world a little bit better. So to me that the the draw to the field is just knowing that you're literally doing something for a living that improves the world. But I think you have to be drawn to the field because you like people and you're interested in people and you like working with them. Something that was pretty common for people in the program where people who who's who started out doing something else, especially nurses, something like that. And what they found was they got a lot more out of helping the helping the person and learning about their life and helping them solve life's problems and reach goals than they did, you know, about the medical aspect or the body. And so I just think that if if you're someone who wants to work with people and you're not sure how to go about doing it, then starting their Athens tech and figuring out that the program really gives you an opportunity to figure out which specialty or which area you'd like to go into.00:17:24S2You know, a few of my classmates are in recovery themselves to have met, you know, an addiction counselor or something like that that have just changed their way of thinking. And some have had trauma in the past that they didn't get help with, but they dealt with the different ways. And now they now that they're whole, they want to help other people. They want to be the social worker that touches other people. And I think that's incredible. You know, that every single classmate I work with is in the social work program because they want to help. You know, it's not about the degree, it's not about the paychecks, it's not about the job. They're there because they love people and they want to serve their community. And I respect that so much. You know, Miss, what's my other favorite teacher? She says, know social workers what they really are agents of change. So I think if you're interested in a social work program, you need to sit back and say, you know, do I want to help change the community? Do I want to help change individuals lives for the better? What am I doing this for? Because if you're doing it just to go work an agency or fill out forms, you're not going to have fun. You're not going to enjoy it. But if you're interested in changing lives and the community around you, oh my gosh, it's the most rewarding for the job, the social work job. I got it right now. It's the most rewarding experience I've ever had. And I got it through Athens Tech, which is amazing.00:18:42S1Tell me about that.00:18:43S2Sure. Yeah. So, Dr. Barner, I had a class called the Community Service Class. Dr. Barnard, fantastic class. And we had a final project. As I'm doing all of our classes, it's kind of big. It was a huge paper, but in that class I had to interview or meet with 12 nonprofit agencies in the community. So I met with the program called Fresh Wind Recovery here in Athens. And what they do is they're a residential treatment center for men and women with addiction issues. And I met with the director and I talked to him and interviewed him. The interview was great. We got along really well. His name is Reverend Jerry Kaiser. It after the day after the interview, he called because I spoke to him a little bit about how I enjoyed teaching people that goal, setting in call. And he said, Hey, Todd, do you want to come lead a group like a process group about goal setting? And I thought, yes, I do. You know, it was a would be a volunteer gig, I guess I do. So I started teaching that class and then I started teaching other classes on career building and resume building and basic skills. Within four weeks he asked me if I'd like to come on full time as the case manager, and this is one semester into the social work program. I completed one semester of social work, so I was into it. I just didn't have all the knowledge yet and I accepted the job and it has changed my life. I am going to work here for a while probably, but I've made so many connections in the community at different agencies. I'm not. Can you? I get calls in. I'm good at what I do. I get calls all the time. People wanted me to come work there and I'm committed to work here, but it's just my life has opened up. I mean, I go through my phone, I probably have 100 contacts in Athens in the mental health field, you know. So working here has been a great thing and it's due to that class. I got this job because of that class, so it's incredible.00:20:30S4So my name is Michelle McSwain. I started in my forties for the first time attending college ever in my life. I stepped foot in a classroom at Athens Tech and graduated from there program. This was all around 2009, started here, started here at Athens Tech just taking some core classes and. And ended up in the social work program and really loved that program and enjoyed my time here very much at Athens Tech. I tell people this all the time when, you know, so now I work in the. Now I'm the associate director of undergraduate admissions at Piedmont University. And I'll have students come to me sometimes and they're like, I just don't know what I want to do. I'm not sure, you know, I'll ask them a couple of questions. And and when they just don't know what they want to do and they're, you know, they just they just sound like a fit for this social work program. To me. It changes your life. I mean, it really I can honestly say that about that program. It changed my life. It gave me confidence. It gave me an awareness for people around me. And I thought that I had that awareness. But when you're in classes learning about aging and respecting how people feel, just learning about how people feel as they get older and the challenges that they have in life and being mindful and respectful of that because you have an understanding of it instead of judging it and being impatient with it, people from other cultures, people from other walks of life. And I thought that I knew that and I thought that I had that. But when I went through the social work program and took an entire class on those topics, then it really gave me an understanding of things and opened my eyes in ways that I appreciate so much, because it's it is good knowledge for anyone to have spending the time to go through that program and learn about people and respecting other people and learning about what they may be going through is, I would say, never a waste of time.00:22:31S1Can you achieve more with Athens Tech in the Social Work Assistant Program?00:22:36S2If you're interested in it, do you think you can serve from the very first class forward? You know, if you're going to be at the Athens campus with Miss Watson, Dr. Barnett from the very first class, you're going to sit there and go, Oh, yeah, this is it. Because it's an interesting class, right? You're going to learn about things that are new and fascinating and exciting. You're going to learn about things that you can not only apply at work, but in your day to day relationships. You know, a lot of the stuff I learned in school actually is with my friends, not in a therapeutic way, but just in a relational with so immediately you'll be engaged, you know, you'll get to a point where you'll you'll be reading your textbook. And I remember reading textbooks in high school and I'd be super bored. But now I read my textbooks. I'm like, This is so cool, so I want to use it in this chapter. I bought all my textbooks so I could save them and look at them later. Like, it's a fascinating book. The teachers Ms.. Watts and Dr. Barter are engaging. They're not. They don't sit there and lecture. You like crazy, right? It's a discussion. Every class is a discussion. So I get to participate and ask questions. And I love that, you know, if I have a problem or an issue, I walk down the hall and I literally go to Mrs. Watts and Dr. Boehner's office, knock on the door, and they welcome me in. And I talk to them about whatever at any time during their office hours, I guess. But they are just amazing, incredible teachers that legitimately care not just about my life, but my career. They want me to be successful.00:24:02S1Thanks for listening. To achieve more with Athens Tech, the official podcast of Athens Technical College. For more information on the Social Work Assistant Program, be sure to visit Athens Tech Dot Edu.00:24:17S5This podcast is a production of BG Ad Group. Darren Sutherland Executive Producer. Jeremy Powell Creative Director. Jacob Sutherland Director Producers. Jason Controller and Matt Golden and Ketchum Copywriter. All rights reserved.