Rebecca Burgos '15 says working with people impacted by substance abuse is her passion. She is heading to an MSW program this month to pursue that dream.

Social Work Grad Following Her Heart to Help Others

Rebecca Burgos '15 says working with people impacted by substance abuse is her passion. She is heading to an MSW program this month to pursue that dream.

Social Work Grad Following Her Heart to Help Others

Social work major Rebecca Burgos ’15 of Springfield, Mass., just graduated, but she isn’t resting on her laurels. She doesn’t have time: Grad school starts May 28.

Burgos, who just completed the 20-month bachelor’s degree in social work offered through the Elms-Springfield Technical Community College partnership, was accepted into the full-time MSW program at Springfield College. And, thanks to the rigorous Elms program, she was given advanced standing, which means she’ll graduate with her master’s degree next summer. “Basically, the 20-month program sets it up so that all the core requirements are completed, so then you jump into advanced standing,” she said.

“It was pretty strenuous, but I made it through,” she added.

She had good motivation: following her heart. “I see myself working with substance abuse. That’s kind of my passion,” Burgos said. “That’s what motivates me. I was raised in a broken family, so maybe that innate drive is what guides me in that direction.”

For her 400-hour field placement, required of all social work students at Elms, Burgos shadowed a correctional case worker at Ludlow Correctional Facility from September through April. It was a good experience, she said. “My associate’s degree was in criminal justice, and there’s a criminal justice aspect in social work, so I see myself doing something like that,” she added. “Perhaps not in the jail facility -- I got a lot of recommendations to apply -- but with that same population, maybe in the community. I want to work with people after incarceration, maybe somewhere in those programs within the sheriff’s department, or within the court system.”

Many of her classmates plan to work with children and families, but Burgos is trying to “steer away” from that route to work with adults. “Maybe a probation officer, if not something with the substance-abuse aspect,” she said.

The work will likely impact families, however. “The benefits of working with children are great,” she said, “but I see it more like: If we tackle the problem of substance abuse, then that in turn will create the reunification of the families. It’s like a ripple effect. That’s my passion.”

Because of that ripple effect and the interrelatedness of the various subfields of social work, Burgos is taking her time to find the perfect fit for her future career. “I just take one step at a time. That’s what’s so beneficial about the social work degree: There are so many different directions that one can take,” she said.

Her own children, ages 16 and 3, are another motivating factor. “The 3-year-old is what motivated me to get back into school, because I had been out of school for some time,” Burgos said. “I had my hands pretty full with the 20-month program, and the placement, and my little one at home.”

But she knows she wants to continue her education. “Higher education is important, especially in our society now. I appreciate that Elms got me on the right path, and I feel like I need to continue, since the ball is already rolling,” she said. “I see so many people stop, and then it’s so hard to get back to school.”

The Elms-STCC program’s convenient structure was a huge draw for Burgos, and she liked the professors, but she said her cohort made a big difference in her success. “You progress through the entire program with the same cohort,” she said. “That’s good, because it’s kind of like your family outside of your family, and you’re all experiencing the same struggles. I strived to help anyone who was lingering behind, and things like that.”