National School Social Work Week is celebrated during the first full week of March- this year, March 5-11, 2023 – and serves to acknowledge and recognize the impactful work school social workers do to support students, families and their communities. This year’s theme, sponsored by the School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA), is “We Rise.” School social workers rise up - supporting their students, families, and school communities. School social workers rise to share hope. They rise to listen and understand. They rise to challenge inequities. They rise to support all students.
We asked three of our school social workers to share what led them to their careers and how they rise for their students. Here’s what they had to say!
Sh'Nay Collins Ballard, YES Prep Northside Secondary
Sh'Nay Collins Ballard was born and raised in Houston, Texas. She earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from Prairie View A&M University and a Master of Social Work from the University of Houston and a Master of Science in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis from the University of Southern Maine. Collins Ballard joined YES Prep Northside Secondary 11 years ago and has served as a social worker for a total of 23 years. She currently serves as a student support counselor at Northside Secondary, home of the Pride.
When asked what led her to a career in social work, she shared, “I was about nine years into my profession at the onset of my son’s behavioral challenges in school and realized that serving children and families in an educational realm was certainly what I was purposed to do! I already had a passion for it but realized that it was my purpose. Supporting my son in his primary school days was certainly a challenge but what I realized was if I didn’t advocate for my child, who would? If I didn’t educate myself in order to learn to better support my child, who would? If I didn’t work with teaching staff to explain to them how to best support my child that I know so well, who would? Every student needs an advocate that is professional, personable, knowledgeable and passionate. This is why I do what I do! I am here to serve in any educational capacity, whether it’s to educate the student or child on how to become their best selves, the parent or guardian on how to guide their child to become their best selves or even educating those who work with children on how to best serve the young people they work with so that they live up to their full potentials.”
As for the impact her role has on students, she said, “I feel that my role as a social worker is the heartbeat of my campus. We build solid relationships with all stakeholders to include staff, students and families, but most importantly with the community in which we serve. Having knowledge of what exists and what does not exist within our community helps us to focus on the exact needs of our campus and that looks different in each region of our school district. Ultimately, the goal is to help meet the needs of our families in a holistic manner.”
Collins Ballard rises for her students by living by R.I.S.E., an acronym which stands for Relentlessly Interceding for Students Every day. Despite what she may be experiencing on a personal level, her commitment is to show up as her best self and give 110% because the students deserve it.
Candace Daniel, YES Prep Southeast Secondary
Candace Daniel was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and raised in Baton Rouge. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Southern University and A&M College and her Master of Social Work from the University of Houston. Daniel currently serves as a student support counselor at YES Prep Southeast Secondary, home of the Wizards.
When asked what led to a career in social work, Daniel shared that she always wanted a career that helped others, especially children and families. She chose social work because of the mission to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic and complex needs of all people. “As a school social worker, we can be the link between home, school and community, in providing direct as well as indirect levels of support to students, families and staff, and to promote and encourage students' academic, social and emotional success.”
As for the impact that her role has on her students, Daniel shared that social workers like herself, serve as advocates for their students and families by providing a listening ear, encouraging voice and connection to resources if needed. “We collaborate with the broader community to provide access and opportunities for our students and their families that educate and support their goals. We help our campuses to feel welcoming to the many cultures and identities that make our campus homes so vibrant and special. We help families feel seen and heard as their perspectives matter. I rise to listen and empower!”
Tradia Wilder, YES Prep North Central Elementary
Tradia Wilder is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Lane College and a Master of Social Work from Union University. Wilder joined YES Prep last summer and currently serves as a student support counselor at YES Prep North Central Elementary, home of the SPARKS.
Wilder was led to a career in social work with City Year, a nonprofit in Milwaukee where she was introduced to social and emotional learning and recognizing the ability to build strong relationships with children. She then taught English to middle school students but soon realized that her passion was investing in the whole child and advocating for those in need and social work is a field where she can do both. When asked how she rises for her students, she said, “I rise for my students by being someone they can count on and always listening with an open heart and an open mind. It brings me great joy to know that the work I do has a positive impact on the lives of others. I rise by showing up as my best self, even when it looks different.”
As for the impact her role has on student and families, she shared, “My role as a student support counselor has a positive impact on the students and families by providing guidance, advocating for needs and supporting the personal-social development of students.”
Thank you, Sh’Nay Collins Ballard, Candace Daniel and Tradia Wilder, for all the work you do to ensure our students and their families have access to the resources they need and the support needed to be successful.
YES Prep wishes you and all our social workers a happy National School Social Workers Week!