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Interview with Dean’s Excellence Scholar Jasmine Torres
December 2, 2021

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Jasmine Torres,Jasmine Torres an MSW student and Dean’s Excellence Scholar, about her journey to the field of social work. 

Can you share a bit about your background at Rutgers SSW?
I had an amazing experience in the BA in social work program at Rutgers during my undergraduate studies, so I knew when I was ready to pursue my MSW it had to be at Rutgers. While I was not involved in any student groups or volunteer activities on campus, I made so many friends who all share a passion for helping others. I also loved every single professor in the social work program in my undergraduate years. They are all so knowledgeable, resourceful, and understanding.

What made you decide to enroll in an MSW program and what drew you towards Rutgers SSW specifically?
As previously mentioned, I returned to Rutgers for my MSW because I had such a great experience getting my BASW at Rutgers. The flexibility the Intensive Weekend program offers was another important factor that played a huge part in me returning to Rutgers for my MSW. I currently work full time as a case manager in the outpatient psychiatry department at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). It was vital for me to choose a school/program that worked with my busy schedule. I also love the fact that I can intern at my job and experience new challenges and learning opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to experience in my usual work.

What does your work as a social work care coordinator entail? Can you touch upon what it was like to provide COVID-19 relief services to families with critically-ill children?
As a social work care coordinator at CHOP, I am responsible for connecting our patients and families to services and resources outside of CHOP. These services include higher levels of care such as intensive outpatient programs, partial hospitalization programs, family based services/in-home counseling, wraparound services/IEP support, psychiatric inpatient, and residential treatment. I also help families apply for Medicaid so they have access to community mental health services and to alleviate financial costs for services.

As you can imagine, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it very difficult to successfully do my job in a timely manner. Not only am I receiving a greater number of referrals than normal, but the pandemic has also exhausted our mental health system. With that being said, it has become very difficult to connect patients and families to services in the community because providers are completed booked or have extensive wait lists. There was even a recent article published in The New York Times regarding CHOP’s emergency department being over capacity with children who are struggling with mental health concerns, such as suicidal ideation. There is a plan in the works to help bridge these patients to mental health services in the community and at CHOP, which I will be a part of. For COVID-19 relief services, I assist families with applying and getting connected to state/government funded programs such as Medicaid, LIHEAP, TANF, SNAP, and rent relief programs.

Will you be continuing your role as social work care coordinator while completing your MSW? If so, what are your plans to strike a work/school-life balance?
Yes, I am continuing to work as a social work care coordinator full time while completing my MSW. I have a great team and support system here at CHOP, so it’s helpful to know they are understanding of my complex schedule. Since I intern at my job, my care coordination team and supervisors take over for me on Tuesdays so I can focus strictly on internship tasks and responsibilities. I even have a separate ID badge for my internship days so colleagues can see I am a student that day and not a care coordinator. I also keep a very organized planner to keep track of all assignments, tasks, and events. I find it extremely helpful to always plan ahead and to be prepared for whatever is coming up next. Self-care is a big thing for me too. Even if I’m just closing my laptop for an hour to let my brain rest, I try my best to take care of myself.

What was your reaction to being named a Dean’s Excellence Scholar?
I was happy and appreciative when I learned that I received the Dean’s Excellence Scholarship. One of the things that made me hold off from going back to school was the financial aspect of it. I knew that I wouldn’t qualify for financial aid grants because of my income, but I certainly don’t make enough to cover all of the costs for my MSW. With that being said, I was glad that I could qualify for a scholarship based on my academic/professional success.

Is there anything else you would like to share?
A big thank-you to Rutgers and the School of Social Work faculty. I first got the opportunity to work at CHOP as an intern in the BASW program at Rutgers Camden. If the SSW didn’t provide me with such an amazing opportunity to intern for CHOP, I wouldn’t be here in this position today. I am so grateful for everything I’ve learned so far through this program and all of the amazing people/professors I’ve met and received guidance from. Specifically, I’d like to thank Professor Hiraldo for putting that CHOP application in my hands and giving me recommendations for my job and MSW application processes. The connections you build with your professors in this program can be life changing!

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