Jennifer Lombardi, Human Services Sequence, Jacob Hiatt School of Education

Jennifer Lombardi's interest in psychology and helping young people came together through the Human Services course sequence offered by Clark's education department. As part of that program she completed a two-semester internship with the Worcester County Juvenile Court and decided that she wanted to become a social worker. She has been accepted to all of the five master's programs in social work that she has applied to, and will be attending the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in the fall.

How did you become interested in the education department's Human Services program?

It really started at the end of my sophomore year. I was pretty sure that psychology was the right major for me, but I wondered if children would be a population that I'd like to work with. So I sought out the education department to see what they had available. I talked to Professor Marlene Shepard and she showed me the Human Services sequence. The sequence was an exciting discovery for me, because I had not heard about it before. It sparked my interest, so I enrolled for the following fall.

The sequence is about the helping professions and has four courses that you can take at any time. It's a very flexible program. If someone is interested in working in the human services field, and with different organizations or social agencies, these would be good courses to take.

It doesn't matter if you're a psychology or sociology or English major, you can do this program, and we have a huge mix of majors in the class. There's a history major, and a geography major among others. Everyone wants to see what it's like to volunteer and to intern at a position they might be interested in for the future. If you prefer to take only one of the four Human Services courses, you can do that also. You don't have to be enrolled in the entire sequence to benefit and grow from the experience.

What are the requirements for the sequence?

The first course is The Skilled Helper. This was my favorite class of all because it really puts you into a helper-client relationship and gives you an understanding of what it means to be a helper, how to give back to people, and what really goes on in a helping relationship. The second course is called Education and Social Policy, which makes you aware of the formation and the bureaucracy of human service organizations.

Then you take Field Experience I and II. For these courses you volunteer with an organization or agency for 8-10 hours per week. You write in your journal and discuss your experience with the class. In class you learn how to interact with clients and with supervisors. Everyone in the class has a different placement—some with juveniles, some with the elderly, or some with the homeless—so after we go out into the field to apply what we've learned, and we all come back together to discuss our successes and failures.

The sequence is very manageable. If you were to decide late in your sophomore year or even in the junior year you could still complete the sequence. Professor Seale offers the courses every year. He also assigns a few textbooks about the helping professions to supplement your experiences. There are also some books that read more like novels, such as Robert Coles' The Call of Stories. Novels of this type are full of the human condition and true life anecdotes. The class work, coupled with the social services experience, is truly inspirational; it gives people a lot of motivation to continue doing what is best for humanity.

What did your field experience consist of?

I've done fieldwork for the past two years. I began by mentoring a seven-year old girl through St. Peter's Church, where they have an after school mentoring program on Wednesdays and Thursdays. I've been fortunate to continue my relationship with her through her 9th birthday! It definitely has been an unforgettable experience there.

I also wanted to do something more in line with what I want to do in my future. So I'm currently interning at the Worcester County Juvenile Court in the probation department. I'd really like to help juvenile delinquents and anyone who is at risk for and going through the court justice system. My supervisor has over one hundred cases of delinquents, of Children In Need of Services (CHINS), and of care and protection cases, so I really see an array of clients. I observe courtroom proceedings, work with fellow probation officers, manage cases and prepare paperwork, and speak with social workers. I'm seeing a whole new world from the inside when I never could have imagined that I would be there.

How did you get this placement?

My professor actually helped me, and I think that is something Clark is really good about. The Community Engagement and Volunteering Center here is wonderful. Anyone can go there and they provide so many opportunities for you to volunteer in the community, close to campus or even further away if you can drive. Professor Seale, who teaches the Human Services sequence, has a wealth of information about places to go. He is more than willing to help you. Not to mention that within many agencies and organizations there are several different programs offered, so you can really find a place that fits you.

The Human Services sequence has been one of the most life changing events that I have experienced at Clark. I never really knew about social work or mental health counselors, until this sequence opened my eyes. Discovering the Human Services sequence just turned my life around, and I realized that being a helping professional is something that I want to do. So I'm very glad that I learned about it.

Is the Hiatt Center's focus on urban education relevant to your sequence?

Teachers, social workers and students really need to have an understanding of what it means to be in an urban area. Right here in Main South there is a variety of ethnic populations, celebrating multi-cultural events all the time. Even in my experience at the court, I see diverse people from so many walks of life every day. So an urban educational focus on the city dynamics and cultures is very important. I think Clark is doing a good job really getting us out there into the community.

I understand you're minoring in Spanish. Have you been able to use your Spanish in your field placement?

I have. At the court there are parents who are totally Spanish speaking. I try to say as much as I can and use what I know. There are interpreters that come in, but in one instance when the interpreter was helping someone else we just had to do the interview without her. Between the client and me, we got the message across to the parents. So I try to incorporate my Spanish into the mix and I do think that it is essential to understand another language.