Despite my academic success and determination, my journey towards my childhood dream has been difficult, long and winding.
Growing up as an undocumented student in a low-income household, I often had to temper my expectations. I couldn’t get too attached to a college because my undocumented status prevented me from applying for financial aid and most scholarships, but still I remained hopeful.
My mother, who carried the American Dream from Mexico to East Harlem - optimistic of a better future for her child - motivated me to be resilient. Building on her strength, I graduated from high school with honors and accepted a seat with Lehman College’s Class of 2015 (the only college that I could afford based on my part time income) with gratitude. I was one step closer to my dream.
In my second semester at Lehman College, my family was devastated by a traumatic and life-altering event, the effects of which were exacerbated by our undocumented status and income.
As a result of these traumatic life events and adversities, which forced me to reshuffle my priorities, I was invigorated with a renewed sense of purpose, to help low-income and immigrant individuals and families navigate trauma, and refocused my life’s mission, to become a Clinical Social Worker.
During this period, I spent countless hours working with social workers at courts, hospitals, clinics, community centers, government agencies and law offices. My social workers helped me reclaim my life through their advocacy, caring and understanding. I experienced first-hand how important social workers are for low-income families in particular, and I am so grateful to every single social worker that helped me navigate the most difficult period of my life.
Through the continued guidance from my social works and after 7 long years of juggling full time work, sometimes holding two or three jobs at a time, and my college coursework, I graduated Cum Laude from Lehman College’s Advance Social Work Program in 2018. I was always, and remain to this day, a dedicated student with an exemplary academic record.
As a result of this experience, I decided to weave my love for psychology into a career in Clinical Social Work. I knew I wanted to serve and help low-income families in the same way my family and I were helped. I was also finally able to obtain a Green Card in 2018, making a career in this field more viable.
Working full time as an essential worker at a Behavioral Health Department in the Bronx, NY, I have witnessed an increase in poverty and homelessness, food disparity, domestic violence and child abuse, substance abuse, hospitalization and mental health issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, we are in need of mental health workers and LMSWs/LCSWs.
Today, I am inches away from becoming a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), but I am struggling to overcome a seemingly benign yet the most insurmountable obstacle of all: financing my education. Can you help me cross the finish line?
In just one more semester, I will be able to graduate with a Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW) from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service. The total cost for me to graduate with an MSW is $11,897.50 by early January 2021:
Tuition Cost for 5 classes: $14,618.50
Scholarship from the Graduate School of Social Service: $1,500
Waiver for existing medical insurance: $1,221
After graduating, I will take a licensing exam to become a Licensed Masters Social Worker (LMSW). With this license and after three years of supervision under a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), I will be able to provide psychotherapy services on my own. My goal is to become a LCSW myself and be able to build a practice providing free to low-cost mental health services to immigrant families. The cost of the LMSW licensing exam is $294. In total, I will need to pay $12,191.50 to become an LMSW.
As an independent woman, I spent many sleepless nights before deciding to share my story with you and ask for your help. But I realize that it takes a village; I couldn’t have made it this far without the support of my social workers, peers and family and I can’t do this without you now. Please help me become a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW).
I will keep everyone updated throughout my journey, including on graduation and getting my license. Please leave your email address (in the comments or a private message). I will personally thank you for your support!! <3
With Love and Gratitude,
- Tiffany Tapia
- Amanda Lorenzo
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