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First class of social workers to graduate in May

The first graduates of Cal State Monterey Bay’s Master of Social Work program will cross the stage at commencement in May 2013. They will represent the culmination of years of planning and community support.

The program started with 40 students in the fall of 2010.

Petra Mansfield is scheduled to graduate from the MSW program in MayOne of those students, Petra Mansfield, has received an $18,500 stipend through the California Social Work Education Center program to help pay for her final year of school. The program is designed to support social work students who are pursuing a career in community mental health services.

Mansfield (at left) was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. as a teenager. After earning a bachelor’s degree in collaborative health and human services at CSUMB, she went to work for the Kinship Center as a case manager.

“I have discovered that there is a great need for mental health professionals in Monterey County, especially Spanish-speaking service providers,” she said.

“I have observed firsthand the devastating effects of mental illness on individuals as well as families. It’s the reason I became interested in pursuing a career as a social worker,” she said.

The scholarship is especially helpful since Mansfield travels 150 miles roundtrip from her home in San Ardo in southern Monterey County to campus.

In addition, Mansfield received a $5,000 award through the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). Seven other students also received MHSA stipends; all were chosen by a committee of university and community members.

MHSA awardees are:

• Janet Barajas, a third-year student who works for Monterey County in Children’s School Based Services
• Gina Billeci, a first-year student and CSUMB alumna
• Katelyn Bryant, who earned a bachelor’s degree and teaching credential from CSUMB
• M. Veronica Gonzalez, an employee of Monterey County Children’s Behavioral Health
• Linda Rios, a CSUMB graduate who is serving an internship at Natividad Medical Center’s mental health unit
• Casey Swank, a graduate of UC Irvine, who works for the Community Action Board of Santa Cruz
• Sandra Valencia, a CSUMB graduate in her third year of the MSW program

Barajas, Swank and Brenda Quintero-Gonzales – all third-year students – also received $18,500 through the same program that funded Mansfield.

Three students received $10,164 per year until they graduate through a California Social Work Education Center program designed to prepare social workers for careers in child welfare services.

They are:

• Angela Gomez, who works as an adoption social worker for Monterey County’s Department of Social and Employment Services
• Jennifer Mendoza, who is employed as a child welfare social worker for Monterey County
• Becky Pimentel-Sherwood, who works for Family and Children's Services of Monterey County

There has long been a need for people with MSW degrees in the region, especially those who are bilingual and bicultural. Before the university even opened its doors in 1995, discussions were held about establishing a social work program. A number of obstacles intervened.

But with the passage of Proposition 63 in 2004, funding became available. The Mental Health Services Act added a 1 percent tax on personal incomes over $1 million. The money is funneled to county mental health programs, and some is earmarked for workforce development. The Southern Bay Mental Health and Education Workforce Collaborative and the Monterey County Behavioral Health Division directed funds to support development of the university’s MSW program.

The three-year program allows students to concentrate in Behavioral Health or Children, Youth and Families. Students must also complete an internship of 1,000 hours, 250 hours per semester starting in the second year. They will spend an academic year in each of their internship placements.

Learn more about the MSW program.