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Student Profile: Janina Alcantara, Bachelor’s in Human Services
Like many students that come to CityU, Janina Alcantara had an underlying passion that was a common thread throughout her life but she ended up trying several career fields until it finally clicked. She had always been passionate about helping people, specifically children and families, so when she found CityU’s Bachelor of Arts in Human Services program, she had her “ah-ha” moment. She took some time out of her extremely busy schedule to talk to us about her experience in the program and at her internship with the Division of Child and Family Services which is a part of Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services.
City University of Seattle (CU): Can you tell us a little more about yourself? What did you do before enrolling at CityU?
Janina Alcantara (JA): I was stuck in a class that I didn’t even care about. It was filled with endless numbers, equations, graphs, and laws—math, a subject that rendered me a lost cause. After high school, I wandered restlessly through different career goals: from anesthesiology to nursing to business to accounting. Despite feeling lost, I was always drawn to one constant in my life: working with children. Even after getting accepted to an accounting program, I wasn’t very excited. Instead of searching for accounting internships, I found myself volunteering at daycares, nurseries, and schools. Even my jobs were kid related. I was always someone’s nanny. Always.
I am 22 years old and currently I have an overwhelming schedule so on a daily basis I focus on my long-term goal, which is becoming a social worker. I currently work at a concierge medical clinic in Bellevue as a Patient Service Representative during the day. At night I work overnight shifts in Everett as a Nursing Assistant. Somehow on top of all of all of that I am Interning at the Department of Child and Family Welfare Services as well as being a full-time student. You might ask when do I find time for sleep? –I don’t.
CU: What made you decide to enroll at CityU?
JA: I earned my Associates in Business at North Seattle Community College and soon after graduating I quickly learned that it wasn’t for me. I took some time off and luckily I stumbled upon the Bachelor’s of Arts in Human Services program on the City University website (with emphasis on children and families), and it was like all of a sudden my whole life made sense. Even with the never-ending pathway switches, all the career goals I had chosen brought me back to working with people. This was the perfect program for me. While I have had experience working with children, at City University I would have the opportunity to learn about the broader scope of child development through courses like Social Policy and Organization and Public Schools in a Democracy. At City University, I would be with people who are like-minded, while being challenged to think critically about childhood development on a small and large scale.
CU: What has your experience been like in the Bachelor of Arts Human Services program? What drew you to this program specifically?
JA: What drew me to this program specifically is the program’s flexibility. As I previously mentioned, I have quite a full schedule, so online course were definitely for me. I also liked that I could take course during the summer or choose to take a break if needed. Most importantly I think the BAHS program fits every educational goal that I have. My learning experience has been excellent and I am glad I get to choose my focus and emphasize in working with children and families.
CU: Please tell us a little about the internship you’re currently in. Have you been able to apply what you’ve learned at CityU directly into your work in the internship?
JA: The Division of Child and Family Services is a part of Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services. The Children’s Administration has 46 field offices in our state, which all work with children and families to identify their needs. The mission of the DCFS is to protect abused and neglected children while supporting families by teaching them how to safely and properly care for their own children. The staff strives to protect not just the children but the families as well. They do so by first and foremost ensuring the safety of the child then by providing parents with the necessary tools and skills to succeed.
The philosophy of the organization is to develop a plan of services, which assures the safety of the children. Services will be provided to support the parents of these children so that they have the opportunity to improve and the goal is to be self-sufficient and strive for reunification. These services are designed in efforts to reduce the risk of abuse and neglect, find safe alternatives to out-of-home placement, and assure permanency for the children. Since interning at the DCFS King East office, I am very impressed with the amount of support and services social workers offer to their clients. It is the social workers duty to support the families wholly in order to monitor their court-mandated services. The services that they offer provide simple to complex assistance to alleviate the difficulties of parental responsibilities.
I have definitely been able to apply what I have learned at CityU into my internship site. To be honest I think I have been able to apply what I learned in EVERY course to my internship. Due to the nature of the cases at DCFS employees face ethical dilemmas on a daily basis, which aren’t easy to deal with. I have also been able to apply what I have learned from organizational systems, social psychology, assessing diverse community needs, and client advocacy. Social work is the epitome of working with people so learning about different family and cultural structures has been highly beneficial.
Child abuse and neglect is a nationwide problem and social workers are meant to help the people in the community. By obtaining this degree at CityU it enables me to use the tools and skills that I have learned to help protect these children. Preventing child abuse and neglect is a movement and being able to be a part of it is amazing. I have always been passionate about working with children and being able to work towards providing them a safe and comfortable home to live in is a great career. I have had an experience of a lifetime at my internship (there is never a boring day) and CityU has made that possible.
CU: What are your plans after you graduate?
JA: After I graduate I would like to pursue my Master in Social Work at University of Washington. I want to apply for the Child and Welfare Training and Advancement Program, which promote training and excellence for the welfare workforce while providing some financial support for social work students and professionals. Hopefully I can get a job at my internship site (DCFS) because so far it is exactly what I am looking for. Interning at DCFS has been emotionally and physically draining but rewarding nonetheless. The cases can be so complex and dense, which takes a huge emotional toll on me. However, at the end of the day I can feel satisfied that I am dedicating my career to helping people. DCFS works with families with children who have been neglected and or abused, being able to alleviate that misfortune and monumentally fulfilling.
CU: Do you have any advice for students considering enrolling in the BAHS program?
JA: I would encourage future students to pursue their degree at City University BAHS program. The classes are designed to fit the student’s best interest. In my experience the courses are created to guide and educate the students about the field of Human Services. I also think it is great because the course are so specific to the emphasis the student chooses, which in my case is the child and family section.