Ms. Kristina Valdez is a master’s student in the social work program at Marywood University. She is a traditional Master’s-level Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) Youth fellow with the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), and she currently serves as the student representative on the National Association of Social Workers Pennsylvania Chapter (NASW-PA) board of directors.
Kristina decided to apply to the MFP because she wanted to learn specialized skills and knowledge that would help to empower other underrepresented individuals. She remarked, “I have benefitted first-hand from access to knowledge and resources; as a Latina, single-mom, I know that access to the right tools is essential to empowerment.”
As a current MFP fellow, Kristina is focused on serving as a resource to her professional networks by disseminating vital information obtained through this fellowship. She stated, “All mental health practitioners, indeed the entire world is trying to navigate unfamiliar waters; what is needed currently is widespread information sharing on best practices, and to support each other as we work to uplift the most vulnerable among us.”
Kristina shared that the MFP has enriched her academic and professional career by providing access to best practices and cutting-edge information in real time. For example, she participated in a webinar on best practices in telehealth amid the current pandemic. She shared, “This was very helpful because it provided practical information for the current times, and it enhanced my professional career by positioning me as a leader among my professional networks because I disseminated the information. A few long-standing practitioners provided me feedback that the information-sharing was very helpful.” She further explained, “MFP had also given me a real-life example of the role of flexibility in professionalism; as the world deals with an unforeseen and difficult situation, MFP has adapted their program accordingly, including the topics they have chosen for their webinars.” For this, she thanks the MFP.
Upon completion of the MFP, Kristina hopes to work in a treatment court and to provide therapy services part-time where she can provide education to clients using the best practices she has learned. She states, “As I venture into my professional career as a social worker, I will remain engaged in macro- and micro-level endeavors toward the betterment of individual lives and our society. This country's historical and present-day systems of oppression have created dire circumstances for some populations, and I feel fortunate to have knowledge on how to best empower members of these groups.” Kristina will also continue to serve as the NASW-PA student representative until her term ends in September.
When asked if she had any advice for anyone thinking about applying to the MFP, Kristina said, “I would tell them, without hesitation, to apply! The MFP is so supportive of its fellows and really helps position graduates for success.” She also added, “The knowledge I have acquired in this program has positioned me as a leader in my professional community. The MFP has introduced me to resources that I would have otherwise never known about (i.e., Social Work Regulations Database, Social Work Registry, Telebehavioral Health Institute). I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be part of a community of past and present fellows throughout the country.”