Student Spotlight: Frank Myers, MSW Program
Frank Myers is a student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of New England. We spoke with Frank recently about what attracted him to the field of social work, his experience in the UNE Online program, and what drove him to create and host an outreach event for homeless people in his area.
What got you interested in becoming a social worker?
I was homeless and on my own when I was 11, so the homeless population has always been in my heart. For the past three years now I’ve been working full time with the homeless, but really I’ve been working with the homeless for pretty much all my life. I try to help out where I can.
What encouraged you to pursue your Master’s in Social Work?
I always wanted to get into social work, so I went and got my bachelor’s degree, and immediately after that started on my master’s – and I just finished my last class for my MSW! Now all I have to do is my internship, and I’ll be done in December. I’ve been in school for the last eight years, but I know that social work is exactly where I want to be.
What do you do for work?
I work for Volunteers of America (VOA) as a case manager. We work with the chronically homeless with a housing-first approach. Our goal is first and foremost to get people into homes. We don’t factor in substance use or mental illness, which used to be a deterrent to people getting housed. We house them first, and then we work on the substance use and mental illness piece. We believe that clients can be most effectively helped if they have their physiological needs met first and foremost.
You recently orchestrated your first homeless outreach event and are planning more. Can you tell me about that?
I’d never put one together from scratch, so this was definitely an experience for me. I’ve gone to a few homeless outreach events, but these are the first ones I’ve actually put together myself and had other providers join in. For my first event, I had 10 providers participate, which is a decent turnout for a small event.
My approach has been not only to outreach to clients but also to outreach to providers. Historically it’s been a struggle to know exactly what each provider provides, so it’s difficult to refer someone to a resource that fits their needs. I’ve found it’s been really valuable to get the providers talking with each other, so we can all work together to help as many homeless we can.
Why did you feel like an outreach was necessary?
What I noticed when I was homeless, is that it’s difficult for the homeless to travel place to place. So I wanted to bring this event to them. In San Diego, there are two major homeless outreach events. One is called Stand Down which is nationwide and for veterans only, and there is Downtown Homeless Connect, which is for non-veterans as well as veterans. One is in July, and one is in January. Throughout the rest of the year, though, they don’t have these big events. I wanted to get providers together so I got in touch with a bunch of providers and organized our own event.
I chose the location of Mariner’s Way for my outreach events because every Tuesday there is a barbecue for the homeless, and they usually host anywhere from 100-200 homeless people. So before and after they’re eating, we’re there to provide the services that they need.
What kind of services do the providers provide?
I always make sure that there are at least three or four providers who provide the exact same services, so people have options and they can go to the one that they choose. We offer temporary housing, 15- and 90-day withdrawal programs, HIV testing, social security, disability, general relief, medical, California ID vouchers, and Human Health Services Agency for San Diego provides assistance and expedites a lot of things as well.
It’s a hand up, not a handout. We may need to hold their hand a little bit until they get their feet on the ground, but other than that we encourage them to empower themselves. Because without them being empowered, they’re not going to get anywhere. We help them by giving them the tools to help themselves.
How did you decide on UNE for your Master’s in Social Work to continue your work with the homeless?
My grades are really important to me. I have ADHD, and I’m not good at sitting down in a classroom, so I was looking for a great online school with a format that would fit my learning style. I got accepted to other schools, but UNE offered a format that really appealed to me. And tuition was also significantly less at UNE.
How has your time been at UNE?
UNE is awesome. I like the format, I like Blackboard, I like the teachers, and my Student Support Specialist Lisa Shaker is also awesome. She’s always there. The instructors are always so helpful too. If you have questions, they’re there to help. And the coursework isn’t too heavy for someone that’s working.
At the beginning of my school career I was working full-time on top of holding down a part-time job, and also going to school. I only dropped my part-time job when I started doing my first internship. You just have to make sure that you time manage very well. That’s the biggest thing.
Had you taken online classes before?
Yes, I earned my bachelor’s degree online. I went to school in my 20s to become an EMT, but I quickly found that I had a difficult time sitting and concentrating in a classroom environment. Online is the format that works best for me. With online classes, I’m able to control my surroundings. I go into my room and I shut the door, and nobody bothers me. That’s what works best for me.
What would you want a potential student to know before starting this program?
Well, if they’re at UNE, they’ve already picked the right school!
The biggest keys to success once you’re here are time management, discipline, and self-care. Make sure you have a designated, set-aside time for studying and completing assignments. Saturday is the day that works for me. I do get some smaller assignments done throughout the week, but I set aside Saturdays to sit down and get absolutely everything done. And I’ve found that it has to be consistent – that’s where discipline comes in. It can’t be changing.
And of course, self-care is always important. I just passed the one-year mark of meditating every single day before I go to work. I find it a very valuable practice. I used to make excuses that I didn’t have time, and I would do it every other day, or twice a week, but it just wasn’t working. So now I do it every single day, even if it’s just five minutes. I always tell people – everybody has five minutes.
Did you feel as though you were in a community while getting your MSW?
I did, and I do. Even though I’m starting my internship now, I’ve definitely always felt that I was part of a family, and I felt like I belonged. You’re never just a number.
UNE is an awesome, awesome school. I can’t say enough about UNE.
If you are interested in pursuing your Master’s in Social Work to conduct homeless outreach or address other areas of concern, or even if you’re simply interested in discussing the program, please reach out to an Enrollment Counselor at (207) 221-4143 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also download more information through our program guide:
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