Cassandra Marrero ’15 (CLAS), ’18 MSW is making a difference for her community thanks in part to the support she received from the Julio Morales Jr. Fellowship endowment at the UConn School of Social Work.
Cassandra Marrero ’15 (CLAS), ’18 MSW has always been interested in helping those in need. In this respect, she follows in the footsteps of Dr. Julio Morales Jr., who is both professor emeritus of UConn’s School of Social Work and the donor who established one of her graduate fellowships.
Dr. Morales spent much of his academic career working to involve more Latinx faculty and students in the world of social work. Since arriving at UConn in 1978, he has established the Puerto Rican and Latinx Studies Project within the School of Social Work, promoted bilingual and multicultural education for aspiring social workers, created mentoring programs for Latinx high school students, and developed curricula to help social workers address HIV/AIDS in the community and LGBTQ issues, among many other accomplishments.
“I was in awe of Dr. Morales’s work with the Latino community and his influence on the UConn School of Social Work curriculum,” says Marrero.
Upon his retirement in 2013, Dr. Morales wanted to create a permanent channel through which he could continue to support UConn social work students like Marrero. So, he established the Dr. Julio Morales Jr. Fellowship Endowment.
“I worked at UConn for 25 years, and I think most Latino students I met needed some help,” he says. “Many of the students going into social work come from families with little savings. And, there were no scholarships specifically for Latino students.”
The Morales Fellowship Endowment provides funding for graduate students enrolled at the School of Social Work who have demonstrated a commitment to outreach programs, are fluent in English and Spanish, and have or will have completed a field education practicum in the Latinx community.
“I think social work is an altruistic profession. And it’s a profession with a hundred faces. Social workers are everywhere; they work in schools, in prisons, in hospitals. I want Latinos to continue to be involved in that.” — Dr. Julio Morales Jr.
Cassandra Marrero fit all the criteria when she received the fellowship for the 2016-2017 academic year. She used the funding to participate in the Puerto Rico Travel Study, another program that Dr. Morales had helped to establish.
“The travel study trip to Puerto Rico emphasized both micro and macro practice with children and families, older adults, diverse populations, and women on the island,” says Marrero. “Some areas of focus were physical health, mental health, HIV/AIDS prevention, substance abuse, and social mobilization. Because of the Morales Fellowship, I was able to afford this great opportunity and had an amazing time.”
Back home in Hartford, Marrero continued to work with children and families. She completed a field placement in the Hartford Public Schools, where she ran therapeutic groups for children ages 6-13 and became interested in those who struggle with ADHD. She completed a second field assignment at an East Hartford community agency and also presented her LEND Fellow project (Leadership Education in Nuerodevelopmental Disabilities) on the cultural barriers Latinx families encounter in the Hartford Public School System.
Now graduated, Marrero currently serves as a clinician at Village for Families and Children, providing outpatient services to children in the Greater Hartford area. “As a bilingual clinician, the majority of my clients are of Latino descent. I take great pride in providing services to the Latino community and, in the future, I hope to open my own private practice to enhance the overall well-being of underserved populations.”
This is but one example of the impact Dr. Morales hoped his fellowship would have. And he would like to keep the momentum going.
“I think social work is an altruistic profession. And it’s a profession with a hundred faces,” he says. “Social workers are everywhere; they work in schools, in prisons, in hospitals. I want Latinos to continue to be involved in that.”