My work, my ideas, my faith, my life

Social Worker

I’ve always had an affinity for people and the things they deal with. My mother thought of me as mature beyond my years, and it’s probably true. I still was a child when I needed to be, but I’ve had a sense of social justice and tolerance that would have made for a good social worker.

In John Adams High School in Portland, Oregon, I took a class called “Medical Careers”. It was taught by a registered nurse and we learned things like taking temperatures, blood pressures, handling of sterile instruments, and just about anything else needed for working in a hospital. We also all got volunteer positions in the local hospital. The hospital was Providence Hospital, operated at the time by the Sisters of Providence.

My teacher, Ann LaSalle, R.N., was a fun teacher. She taught the skills well and was dedicated to placing us in the hospital according to our talents. I was getting a little nervous, because almost all of the other students had been placed. When it came down to me being the last one, she said, “I have something special for you.” She took me to the chaplain’s office and signed me up to be an assistant to the chaplain. Being a Latter-day Saint (Mormon), I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to work with the Roman Catholic priest who was the chaplain of the hospital. That makes for a good story as it played out, but not relevant at this moment.

I asked the teach, Ann, why she placed me there. Let me explain right now about John Adams High School. I came there my sophomore year and it was my sixth high school. We move a lot. It was a bit of a culture shock, because John Adams was somewhat of an experiment. It’s also a great story. Suffice it to say, at this moment, that teachers and students were all on a first-name basis.

Ann answered my question. “For the last few weeks, I’ve really struggled with where to put you. You have mastered all of the skills I’ve taught, but you’re different from the others. There something about you that makes people want to share their problems with you. You’re the kind of person I would turn to if it weren’t for me being your teacher. To me, pastoral care is just where you belong. It is my hope that if you decide to go into the medical profession, you’ll choose to be a psychiatrist.”

Well, I didn’t become a psychiatrist. As a Latter-day Saint, I’m naturally a social worker of sorts, as are all active Latter-day Saints. The Church expects us to serve in those ways. For a profession, however, I started out as a warehouse worker. Events drove me into trade school for computer programming.

I had a very long career as a data processing professional. I was working at Intel as a contractor on 9/11/2001. Shortly after that, in reaction to a waning economy, Intel let me go. When my employer, a consulting company, could not place me anywhere else, I went on unemployment.

Work as a consultant was hard to find and it seemed like every other option was drying up. I researched the Mental Health/Human Services program at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon. I spent two years there and then transfered to Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. There, I completed a Bachelor of Science degeree in Social Work in December of 2006.

During the time in college, I began working as a social worker of sorts. To help support us during that time, my wife Barbara got a job contracting services as a skills trainer of developmentally disabled adults. She worked at that for a few months and then I got involved in it too.

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