Free Essay

Social Work Lervice Learning

In: Social Issues

Submitted By deliciouswoo
Words 1906
Pages 8
| Service Learning Experience | | |


I chose Teen Night at Fort Boise for my service learning project this semester. With the idea behind Teen Night being that there is an option for kids to get out, socialize and participate in many different experiences on a Friday night, in order to try to keep them from choosing activities that would be poor choices and possibly getting in trouble. Although this activity is open to any junior high and high school student in the area, I realized very quickly that most of the teens that attended could easily be labeled as “high risk” teens. Many of them have very stressful/negative settings at home. For some of the teens this was easily identifiable quickly. Others were very good at hiding their troubles. I enjoyed serving my service learning hours at Fort Boise, but, in a way, I wish I would have chosen an organization where I would have been able to get a little closer to the people, on a personal level. Teen Night was just more of group interaction (playing basketball, dodge ball, video games, etc.). There was one teen (Will) I was able to form a bond with that was, originally, very closed off. I later found out, from one of the other volunteers, there were concerns of suicide with Will. I will discuss this bond further into the paper, but I will say that connecting with Will was the highlight of my service learning. In an article from 1995 about the Adolescent Transition Project which was a study conducted in order to get specific numbers about teens and how their behaviors correlated with the connection of their home, school and social life relationships, it is stated that “deviant and risky behaviors such as drug use, delinquency, early sexual exposure, and disrupted education peak during adolescence.” (Andrews & J., 1995). In order to combat these deviant behaviors there have been multiple attempts to implement activities and services much like Teen Night because research has shown that “not only do they provide easy access to high-risk students in need of intervention, they also provide a context for emerging problem behavior that can be altered to aid in the prevention process.” (Andrews & J., 1995). As far as the perception our culture would have for the teens I volunteered with, some could easily conceal their problems. Until I was able to connect in some way, they looked as “normal” as could be. But, once they got comfortable with me they would just make the littlest of comments that would give me a very brief glimpse of what their lives were really like. One night as a few of us were sitting around playing Bop-It, one of the “normal” looking kids received a call on his cell. When he hung up he said “Well that was Satan, I have to go back to jail.” This statement has been reverberating in my head since that night. Not that I think exaggerating is okay when speaking, but in this case, I truly hope and pray this kid was exaggerating. The truth is that it is obvious he is not happy with his home life. Luckily for him, he is able to escape “jail” for a short period of time every week when he attends Teen Night. However, there were others that would be perceived by society as “trouble makers” or labeled in some sort of negative way. These kids walked around in trench coats, with an “I hate the world” look on their face. I will honestly admit I was even a little scared of these kids at first. But, as I was able to overcome my fear and make an open-minded effort to get to know them, I was able to realize that they weren’t any worse than the “normal” looking kids, they just expressed their pain in a visual way (clothing mostly). As much as I would love to think problems within adolescences homes, schools and society will someday end, the truth of the matter is that it won’t. So programs like Teen Night and the Adolescent Teen Project are an amazing opportunity to try to help these kids have some stability and positivity in their lives. With the structure of Teen Night being what it is, as far as offering a safe and positive activity. I don’t know if they are trying to refrain from offering any sort of therapy or counseling services, and instead just wanting to offer a safe escape, or they just haven’t implemented any therapy services, but it was pretty easy for me to identify multiple theories that could be used for helping the participants, if that was ever a desire. So many of the teens that attend this event have extremely heartbreaking stories to tell about their lives, some of the kids are refugees, which speaks volumes in and of itself. Others are one hundred percent American, and still have experience absolutely atrocious events. I think if therapy were to be implemented, the Narrative Theory approach would be extremely effective for these kids. The primary concept of the Narrative Theory is to “help people create alternative stories about their lives, externalize their problems and separate their symptoms from who they are.” (Kottler, 2008). Speaking personally, I know I benefit a great deal by being able to verbalize my problems. So, maybe that’s why I connect with this theory, but after my experience with Will, I feel that being able to communicate their problems and learn that their problems don’t define the person that they are, would be extremely beneficial for a huge majority of the teens. Let me go into detail about Will now. My first impression of him was that he was painfully shy. To be honest I wasn’t sure why, he seemed so “normal”. In fact, just physically observing him, Will actually seemed to have an advantage on many of the physical struggles and issues many teenage boys face; he is tall and muscular, not the “skinny, wimpy” kid. So what made him so quiet and shy? Well according to many of the permanent volunteers and staff at Fort Boise, I was lucky to find out because he never talks or opens up to anybody. One Friday I got to the center early and found Will playing video games, alone. I sat beside him and initiated some small talk. When I was able to see that he was getting comfortable with me, I increased the intensity of our conversation. Will disclosed to me so many personal things; his home life and the feeling that his parents “only cared about his brother” and that in the last two years two of his friends had committed suicide. Once Will felt comfortable enough to talk to me, he just kept talking and even asking questions of his own. When I told some of the staff about this, they were extremely surprised, because “Will didn’t talk to anybody.” So this is a prime example of why I think the Narrative Theory approach would be beneficial at Teen Night. Another approach I could see being helpful to these teens is the Psychoanalytic Theory. With the primary focus of this approach being “helping people to examine the ways their current struggles are reenactments of unresolved uses from the past” (Kottler, 2008), I think if the kids were able to do different activities to express their pains and struggles it would help them to cope and resolve these issues. When we had the guest speakers come talk to us about the different types of Social Work, Amy Rust discussed an activity she used in the schools to help her students, this was the String Art activity. When she explained this therapy technique to us all I could think was how amazing it would be to do this with the teens at Teen Night. Unfortunately I was never able to practice this Psychoanalytic Theory concept with the kids, but once again, if the center were ever to introduce therapy in their activities, I think it would be of great benefit to the kids. There are many skills Kottler writes about that I will try and make sure I use throughout my career. The two that I think are most important are eliciting information and establishing goals. “Your main task during exploration is to find out what is going on with the person you are helping.” (Kottler, 2008). This is pretty cut and dry, if I don’t master this skill, how am I supposed to be able to help my client, if I don’t even know what the problem is? Then as a trickle down, being able to establish, work toward and achieve goals is just as important. Once the problem is established, goals for correcting the problem need to be made. Personally one of the best feelings in the world is accomplishing a goal I have set. I can’t wait to be able to help my clients with setting their goals, supporting and aiding throughout the process of achieving and celebrating the victory of completion with them. In my opinion, one of the most important skills I will (hopefully) make sure to implement in my practice is that of keeping a journal. There are so many benefits I can see coming from making this, pretty simple, activity a regular part of my life and practice. Being that I haven’t even started practicing yet, I’m sure there are benefits of keeping a journal I’m not even thinking of, but at this point I think it would be a great assistant when it comes to not only having a great tool for recalling/recovering experiences, but more importantly provide “a place to debrief after a poignant or stressful session.” (Kottler, 2008). A couple of times throughout the semester there was a topic that was brought up and discussed that solidified a concern of mine, with the Social Work profession, even more. This was the discussion of taking the experiences we will go through personal. Being that I am as sensitive as I am, internalizing my future work is probably my biggest concern, when it comes to my future as a Social Worker. Kottler discusses this very issue in his book we read throughout the semester. He writes that “there is no way that you can delve deeply into other people’s pain without being profoundly affected in the process.” (Kottler, 2008). This being said, and knowing my primary concern for the future of my professional life, I fully intend on using the practicing skill of getting counseling for yourself as well as creating a support group among my peers. I am a firm believer (at this point not a very good at actually practicing) in the concept that in order to be able to successfully help and take care of others, you need to make sure you yourself are taken care of. So, if I can make sure to nurture myself as a person, I will be a better Social Worker for my clients. Knowing this, I now know I have something to work on before I become enter the world of Social Work.


Kottler, J. A. (2008). A Brief Primer of Helping Skills. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

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