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For Rutgers School of Social Work student Kara Sellix and her twin Kristen (a fellow MSW graduate), SIBS NJ was created as a result of a sister, a need for support and the desire to make real change. Kara and Kristen’s sister, Katie, was diagnosed with autism in 1999 at the age of three. Since then, autism awareness has become a way of life for twins Kristen and Kara.

Darnyelle Cmil, a 2012 MSW graduate of Rutgers School of Social Work, has made her career “about making it easier for families to do the right thing.” With a background in early childhood education, she began her social work career at the Department of Children and Families (DCF). While there, she pursued her MSW through the Public Child Welfare Intensive Weekend program, a collaborative endeavor between Rutgers School of Social Work that permitted students to continue full time employment while enhancing their skills and leadership capabilities through MSW study.

For Heidi Peck, 2004 BASW alum, social work has always come naturally. During her time at Rutgers, she lived on Livingston Campus and was elected to the position of committee member of Middlesex County for Piscataway, New Jersey Ward 4, District 6, where she served two terms. She also completed a two-year fellowship at Eagleton Institute of Politics as an undergraduate associate. Peck said, “My time at Rutgers certainly helped to shape my career.

Joan Pierson is the first Rutgers graduate through the MCWEP (Master of Social Work Education Program), of which Rutgers School of Social Work is a partner. Pierson works for the Somerset County Local Office’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency, Department of Children and Families. She joined her Parsippany Intensive Weekend cohort in September 2012 as an advanced standing student. Though she knew the program would be hard work, she agreed to accept the challenge with the hope to integrate her new education into her social work practices.

When Joan Axelrod remembers her husband, Robert Jay Axelrod, she is proud to recall the way he used his larger-than-life personality to become a well-respected lawyer who championed the causes of his clients. He was a certified civil trial attorney at Levinson Axelrod, a prestigious 75-year-old law firm in New Jersey, and those he assisted received the best representation possible.

"He was always on the side of the underdog and showed such compassion for his clients. He was a wonderful lawyer and is still remembered in the legal community for his amazing skills," she says.

Pierson was placed at a Family Success Center in Hunterdon County. She worked with individuals, groups and families, engaging in strength-based interventions, grant writing, fund raising, and other activities. Within the program she was encouraged to try new things in her social work practice. Through her field placement and classes, she learned new leadership skills, insight into behavioral psychology and how to apply these insights into her work.

After her graduation from Cazenovia College as class valedictorian, with a bachelor’s degree in Human Services, Bethany LaLonde knew she wanted to pursue a career in social work. LaLonde, SSW'08, received her MSW from Rutgers with a specialization in Management and Policy. During her time at Rutgers, LaLonde gained experience in various facets of social work, including positions as a mental health advisor at Upstate Cerebral Palsy and a workshop facilitator at Counseling, ADAP & Psychiatric Services (CAPS) at Rutgers.

What do you get when you combine a social worker, poet and a playwright? You get Helena D. Lewis, Intensive Weekend and Continuing Education Class of 2014 alum.

Christopher Jones, 2014 Rutgers BASW alum, says that in his social work practice he wants to “bring light to the world, even in places that seem the darkest.” Jones has also experienced darkness in his own life, during his undergraduate beginnings at his first college, a small private school in Pennsylvania. After experiencing a series of hate crime incidents at school, Jones transferred to Rutgers University, where he found himself surrounded by thousands of people.

Military chaplain Wilfredo Rodriguez knows all too well that the injuries suffered by brave men and women in combat zones impact minds as well as bodies. As a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve who was deployed to Iraq with the Marines for two tours of duty, one in 2003 and again in 2005, Rodriguez has seen firsthand the long-term psychological damage experienced by those in the trenches.

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