We are thrilled to highlight the 2021 recipients of the Jannette Alexander Foundation Scholarships. The Jannette Alexander Foundation for Clinical Social Work Education is a subsidiary non-profit education foundation of the California Society for Clinical Social Work. Each year, the Foundation awards $1000 scholarships to graduating MSW students who demonstrate excellence in clinical studies and practice. Congratulations to these inspiring 2021 students who have already made wonderful contributions to the field of social work! We are so excited to follow your continued success and contributions.
My name is Michelle Maldonado. I am currently an advanced Masters of Social Work and Public Administration student at California State University, San Bernardino. I have been in the social work field for over seven years and have worked in the non-profit, government, and medical setting. While I have worked in social work in a professional capacity, my lived experience has also enhanced my skills as a social worker.
After graduation Michelle has both short-term and long-term goals. Her initial short-term goal is to obtain a clinical position in mental health or social worker in order to obtain licensure hours. She hopes to obtain licensure as a clinical social worker in order to work independently as well as secure an administrative job to enact lasting change. Michelle hopes to make systematic macro changes. She is currently an MSW and MPA (Masters in Public Administration) student with an expected graduation of May 2021. Michelle took on the added public administration degree to pursue leadership in the social work and mental health field. She is hopeful that her understanding of the public entities that social workers work with will assist with advocating and increasing positive engagement in the future. Being a program manager or director is Michelle’s long-term goal or working on a consulting basis for mental health and social services programs to improve their services.
Syd Peterson is a second-year MSW student at the Luskin School of Public Affairs, where he is training to be a psychotherapist. This year, he is interning at the Department of Outpatient Psychiatry at Kaiser Permanente, where he sees patients for individual therapy and co-facilitates a support group for transgender and nonbinary people. Syd also serves as a volunteer counselor at Southern California Counseling Center in Watts. Last year, he co-wrote two chapters on sexual minority men with Luskin Professor Ian Holloway for a book called “Handbook on Social Work and Sexualities,” to be published by Routledge Press. In addition to being recognized by the Lambda Alumni Association, Syd was also awarded the Fertig Social Justice Award by the Department of Social Welfare.
Syd has spent the past 23 years deeply involved in LGBTQ+ activism and advocacy in Washington, DC, San Francisco, New York City and Los Angeles. He held five paid positions and three internships at national and statewide LGBTQ+ organizations; completed seven long-term volunteer gigs at LGBTQ+ organizations and campaigns; wrote dozens of columns and feature articles for LGBTQ+ news sources; and worked with and supported hundreds of LGBTQ+ leaders and organizations. One of Syd’s most formative experiences in the movement was at Lambda Legal in New York City: in his four years as a staff member, Syd spoke with over 3,330 people from every U.S. state and 13 countries about their experiences with discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV status.
Syd’s social justice work has not been limited to LGBTQ+ advocacy. He has also volunteered at two community mental health nonprofits; served as the sole communications staffer at a Los Angeles Country organization working to address homelessness; and received a fellowship to take a 6-month class on political organizing taught by renowned organizer and Harvard Kennedy School Professor Marshall Ganz. As an MBA student at the Drucker School of Management, he produced a highly-attended forum on the Occupy Movement and drastically increased the number of speakers of color and women speakers at TEDxClaremontColleges.
When Syd graduates from UCLA in June, he will pursue positions in the mental health field that will help him gain more clinical experience and earn the 3,000 hours necessary to qualify for an LCSW. While he is unsure whether his long-term career goals are private practice or working inside larger mental health organization, Syd will use the lessons he has learned from multiple social justice advocates and movements to help people help themselves.
“Advocating for the weak facilitates your inner strength; giving your voice to the voiceless guarantees you will be heard in perpetuity!” Tabari Zahir
From 2004-2016, Zahir passionately worked within the federal prison system helping to promote a variety of educational initiatives amongst inmates. This vulnerable population needed life skills services, personal coaching, secular and spiritual curriculums which Zahir helped to operationalize by personally teaching while at the same time working with chaplains and program directors.
He continues similar work today counseling the formerly-incarcerated population and facilitating their societal success by connecting them to the varied reentry services they desperately need.
In 2016, Zahir began to mentor inner city youth in several SoCal organizations by helping them to implement their personal action plans toward solving current social justice issues.
He currently teaches 2nd and 3rd generation immigrant youth instructing them via a spiritual curriculum infused with civic and social justice awareness.
In 2019, Zahir entered a Master’s of social work program to professionalize his advocacy work amongst the justice-impacted.
His first year internship was working as a mental health intern in a dual diagnosis residential clinic conducting client assessments, bio-psycho-socials, treatments plans, and advanced case management.
His second year internship consisted of working with the justice-impacted providing one-on-one counseling, facilitating therapeutic groups and developing a healthy family relationships program.
Zahir has given interviews, presentations, run workshops, and written articles highlighting the intersections between mental health and mass incarceration, and is currently working on publishing his Master’s thesis entitled: “Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Recidivism: Perceptions of Key Justice Stakeholders in Southern California”.
He intends to continue working with the justice-impacted as a mental health and substance abuse professional.
Cesslie Davalos earned her undergraduate degree at the University of California Los Angeles. She earned a BA in African American Studies. She is currently an MSW PPSC Candidate at the University of Southern California. At USC Cesslie serves as one of the two Student Co-Chair’s for NASW USC Caucus and she is also a Student Ambassador for the VAC Online school of social work. Cesslie feels a true passion for advocating and working with the BIPOC communities. It is her goal to bring an end to systematic racism, by looking at structural and institutional barriers that prevent students from attaining higher education. Her goal after graduation is to obtain a job in the school of social work field working with underserved communities. Her goal is to keep advocating for BIPOC communities. It is Cesslie’s mission to make equitable changes in the current public school system by providing assistance in transforming policies that involve curriculum, school culture, school to prison pipeline etc. She wants to be able to advocate for a more holistic approach in all schools especially in marginalized and underrepresented communities. It is her purpose to continue her work with BIPOC communities and families, while also inspiring change in youth of color. Cesslie will commit to serving these communities so that they can have the opportunities they deserve, so that BIPOC youth can learn more than just academics in schools. She wants students to be able to know how to self-regulate their emotions, how to use conflict resolutions skills and heal any generational trauma or trauma that they have acquired. Cesslie will continue to challenge herself; so that she can be equipped to serve and assist to make these changes that so desperately are needed in our school systems.
Jonathan Ramos Santiago
Jonathan Ramos Santiago is an MSW Candidate at the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare. He has worked in a variety of agencies, including community behavioral health, legal services, and research settings. He is a bilingual clinician who has provided services in English and Spanish to diverse populations, including Latinxs and LGBTQ+ communities. Prior to pursuing an MSW, Jonathan attended the University of California, Riverside where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Public Policy.
Jonathan’s priority is to seek clinical licensure. His goal is to work in a community behavioral health setting in order to accrue my licensure hours required to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Jonathan would like to expand my practice in order to work with clients touched by the child welfare system and also learn about medical social work in the future.
Jonathan is currently contemplating if a PhD in Social Welfare/Work is the right path for me. He has worked as a researcher in the past conducting community-based research involving how older undocumented Latinos seek healthcare in California; Jonathan’s research interests would include Latinx immigrant family health and well-being, LGBTQ+ communities, social determinants of health, and the impact of policies on underserved communities.
Sabreen is a Palestinian Muslim, born and raised in a diverse community in one of the greatest cities in the world, San Francisco. After completing high school she earned my bachelor’s degree with a major in psychology and always held a great interest in studying the human mind and all that it entails. While earning her degree, Sabreen spent free time volunteering in a transitional housing program for homeless families, specifically supporting the youth in their social development through play. Sabreen also had the great opportunity to volunteer at an assisted living facility, in which she facilitated engaging activities with the residents such as manicures, mindful walks in the garden, and game night! After graduating, Sabreen earned a position as an after school program assistant coordinator, wherein she oversaw the wellbeing of 200 active learners. Through careful program development and planning, we were able to offer an engaging program that offered enriching activities, while also supporting students excel academically and socially. With all the experience working with younger kids, Sabreen decided it was time for a change, as she always had a niche for working with adolescents. And it was the best decision of her life! After landing a position as an AmeriCorps intern at Wallenberg High School, Sabreen was able to fulfill her passion in working with the Arab and Muslim community in San Francisco. She found her calling and was extremely thankful to accept it. She then decided that it was time to get back into school and earn her master’s degree in social work in an effort to support and uplift underserved and disadvantaged communities. And since the start of my program, Sabreen has further developed the number of skills, tools, and resources in her personal service providing toolkit.
Grateful is an understatement of what I feel for all that I have experienced and achieved; I am who I am as a direct result of the nurturing and inspiring environment that I grew up in. And because of this, I believe it is my duty as a grateful service provider to create the space necessary for children and youth to flourish into their best selves because we deserve to see their inner light just as my community saw mine.