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National Service Scholar: Erika Gaitan and Boston University School of Social Work

Erika Gaitan, San Antonio '13, Boston University School of Social Work

 We caught up with Erika Gaitan as she started her second year as an MSW candidate studying macro social work practice with a certificate in human services management. A City Year San Antonio alumna, she also works as a research assistant at the Boston University Center for Addictions Research & Services, examining how technology can reduce relapse among Latinos with substance abuse and mental illness. She's also a Program Coordinator at ZUMIX—an East Boston nonprofit that works with empowered youth who use music to make positive changes in their communities and lives.  It sounds like the corps member schedule is still a part of her routine!


Why did you serve with City Year?
I served with City Year because I graduated from a “dropout factory”—a high school with less than 50% retention—and wanted to positively influence children in similar situations.

What is one pivotal moment from your year of service?

I was walking down the hall around Thanksgiving time. On a big bulletin board hung dozens of traced hand-turkeys with words describing what students were thankful for and why. One of the 4th graders, my starfish, wrote my name on a brightly colored feather with the description: “life isn’t as hard when she is around”. It was at that moment that I realized with support and nurture children show amazing levels of resiliency. 

 

What led you to apply to BU? Why would you recommend this program to future City Year Alumni?

I applied to Boston University School of Social Work because it has the comprehensive and holistic curriculum that I was looking for. I was especially attracted to the urban mission and strong reputation of the Macro social work department. I would recommend this program to CY alumni who are interested in working with vulnerable populations in urban settings. BUSSW is a great place for learning opportunities in current and emerging areas of social work practice and research.

What skills did you take away from your City Year experience? How do you think your year of service is impacting your role in this degree?

City Year taught me discipline, patience, and constantly forced me to step out of my comfort zone. My experience boosted my confidence in my ability to become an effective change agent as a social worker.

What words of wisdom do you have for alumni planning to apply to this program?

It’s important to be in contact with the BUSSW staff throughout the application process. I also made it a point to attend a BU event to establish vital face-to-face relationships with staff and faculty.        

Are you still involved in service?

I still participate in service days throughout the year with fellow CY alumni at BUSSW.


If you could give one piece of advice to a corps member starting service, what would it be?

Self-care is critical. There are many times during the service year where the emotional and physical toll becomes difficult to handle. It’s inevitable to be witness to traumatic events like abuse and neglect; having support networks in place can help during those situations of high stress.

What does the red jacket mean to you now?

1, 931 hours of blood, sweat, and tears.




Learn more about our University Partnership with Boston University School of Social Work.

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