Helping Middle and High School Students to Recognize Their Inherent Strengths
What the Job Entails
Jonathan Stewart is a school social worker for the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) Program for Arlington Public Schools in Arlington, Massachusetts—part of one of the longest-running voluntary school-integration programs in the country. Dividing his time between the Ottoson Middle School and Arlington High School, Jonathan collaborates with students to help them recognize their inherent strengths while overcoming various challenges they may encounter in their academic journeys. He offers safe and supportive therapeutic check-ins tailored to students facing academic, emotional, social, or behavioral difficulties. In addition to one-on-one and group counseling, he serves as a liaison between families and the schools and develops and facilitates afterschool programming. "It's realizing what's transpiring for these students in school, in their communities, and in the world and asking, 'How can I support you?'" he says.
What Brought Him to Simmons
A 9/11 first responder and Navy veteran, Jonathan arrived at Simmons looking to transition from a background in business and the military to "a career with a more holistic perspective." He reports that the strong veterans community at Simmons, led by Associate Professor Abbie Frost, was a deciding factor. In researching Simmons, he also discovered connections to other faculty members, such as Assistant Dean and Professor Gary Bailey, whom he knew of for his work in youth education and affordable housing. "Simmons was a perfect fit for me," says Jonathan.
How Simmons Prepared Him
Jonathan credits his versatility in the field to "the Simmons way," which he defines as a social work education that prioritizes superior foundational skills with a trauma-informed approach to care. In addition to coursework completed for the Certificate in Trauma Practice, he cites classes on racism and oppression, human development, and mindfulness, as well as a training on gender and sexual minority identities, as instrumental in his current role. Placements at the Simmons Office of Accessibility Services—an internship he helped design—and the VA Manchester (NH) Healthcare System, honed his ability to support clients through one-on-one and group counseling, case management, and resource identification. In addition, his work with the Student Veterans of America chapter at Simmons offered opportunities to volunteer and to conduct research with veterans—activities he continues today. "Simmons creates an environment in which you challenge yourself and your way of looking at the world," he says. "The openness and flexibility you learn carries over to the work."
Why It's Rewarding
"We are talking about some amazing individuals," says Jonathan of his students. "They pull 10- or 12-hour days and navigate a system that can be challenging and not always the most inclusive. There's not a single day where I don't feel glad I'm here, and it's fully because of them. They're going to change the world. They've already changed mine."