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Yesica Sanchez MSW ’11
On her desk back home in Compton, CA, Yesica Sanchez MSW ’11 has a framed photograph of a man she calls her “grandfather.” They aren’t related by blood or marriage. She didn’t even know him until two years ago, but after the year she spent working and living at the Oak Park Arms retirement community as part of her master’s of social work program at Dominican University, she and John Heflin are family.
Heflin gave her the photo as a present at her going away party over the summer. Since then, she’s called to check in on John several times.
“I love working with seniors,” Sanchez says. “My experience here was more than wonderful. I met many residents, including John. They became like a family to me, especially because I was away from home.”
It’s the kind of compassionate service that Dominican’s Graduate School of Social Work instills in students throughout its curriculum.
Dominican offers a master's of social work paired with a graduate certificate in gerontology, which can both be completed in one year. The program is internship-based and focuses on a wide range of aging issues and policies.
The program’s flexibility, hands-on focus and strong foundation in family-centered social work attracted Sanchez enough to move cross-country to an unfamiliar place. But taking advantage of the option to live and work at Oak Park Arms for her internship, she quickly found herself at home.
In May of 2011, Sanchez’s unique living-and-studying situation was featured in the Chicago Tribune .
“Dominican prepares you to work with seniors,” Sanchez says. “Everything that I learned from Dominican was definitely put into practice here at Oak Park Arms.”
After graduating, Sanchez quickly found a job near her native Los Angeles with South East Area Social Service Funding Authority (SEASSFA), carrying a caseload and working with interns from Whittier College her alma mater. Her long-term goals include becoming the director of a retirement community and teaching social work at the university level.
Sanchez is part of a boom in the need for skilled, caring social workers working with the elderly. By 2030, one out of five Americans will be over the age of 65. It is estimated the country will need 70,000 social workers that specialize in aging by 2020.
“Older adults and their caregivers need competent, aging-savvy workers to meet the demands of the baby boomers,” says Dr. Adrian Kok, professor associate professor of social work. “There’s clearly an important leadership role for social workers in aging care. They can make a difference.”