March is National Social Work Month, and we’re celebrating by highlighting two of our social work interns, Rachel and J’Keyah! Both serve as Resource Coordinators for the Senior Engagement program, helping connect homebound elders to resources they need and ensuring they have a great experience with the volunteers who call or visit them. We recently asked both social workers-in-training about their backgrounds, their internship experiences, and their futures.
What drew you to social work?
Rachel: I didn’t always intend to pursue a profession in social work. I earned an undergraduate degree in poetry writing at UVA. While I loved the way poetry helped me hold space for the world’s beauty and pain, I felt something missing from the classroom. After graduation, I worked in communications at a nonprofit in Charlottesville serving UVA students. I quickly realized my most rewarding work experiences involved meaningful interactions with students – not the newsletters I designed or website I managed.
Meanwhile, as I worked at the student center, Charlottesville struggled to recover from the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally. In response, I dove deeper into community work, which further reinforced a desire to bring healing where I can to both hurting individuals and broken systems. In this process, I discovered the social work profession.
J’Keyah: I’m originally from Tappahannock, a small town not too far from here. My undergraduate experience was at Christopher Newport University; I graduated last May with a Bachelor’s in Social Work. I decided to continue my education and come right back to school after undergrad, and I’m now pursuing my Master’s in Social Work!
I have always had a passion for helping others and knew I wanted to help people in some way. As a college freshman, deciding what I wanted to major in, I chose to see what social work had to offer. I got an internship at my local Department of Social Services working with an Adult Protective Services social worker. My time was eye-opening, and I learned so much from everyone there. By the end of my internship I knew social work was the profession for me.
What have you learned as a JFS intern?
Rachel: Jewish Family Services has been my field placement as a student in VCU’s MSW program. I call senior clients every week to check on them and connect them to resources when they need them. Working at JFS has offered me ample opportunity to practice listening to clients and centering their needs. I’ve also learned a lot about the systems and situations impacting elders, including healthcare, end-of-life care, financial support, and coping with loss.
J’Keyah: I am glad I got the opportunity to intern here! JFS has been a kind and supportive environment. From the staff, I have learned about community. From my supervisors, I have gained more social work skills. And with the clients, I have fostered meaningful connections, wonderful conversations, and a better understanding of older adults.
What’s coming up next for you?
Rachel: After my field placement ends in April, I hope to take what I’ve learned at JFS into clinical practice! My dream is to work as an LCSW specializing in grief and bereavement counseling, which has been strengthened by my experience here, working with clients through the various losses they’ve faced.
I’m still at the beginning of my journey, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all takes shape!
J’Keyah: I love working with adults and elders, so after graduate school I would like to be in an agency serving them. But, no matter what kind of people I work with or what agency I join, I know social work will take me to where I belong!