Name: Nicole Steward
Title: School-Linked Services Coordinator/Social Worker
Years with MUSD: 6
Educational Background: BA in Communications from University of Toledo (Ohio) and MSW in Child Welfare/Administration from the University of Connecticut (UCONN) School of Social Work. I also hold certifications in international restorative justice practices, trauma-informed yoga, and trauma-sensitive sound healing.
Why did you decide to become a School-Linked Services Coordinator/Social Worker? What inspired you to take on this career path? I was a CASA and a foster parent for 5 teens in Santa Clara County between 2008-2018 and I've seen how challenging school can be when a student is experiencing trauma, homelessness, or moving often due to placement changes. I've had to advocate for my kids in IEPs and with discipline matters and noticed that schools have a lot of power to make things easier for students if they have a caring adult who understands their needs, but often the needs of foster youth or those experiencing homelessness are left to fall through the cracks. When I had the opportunity to become a social worker in schools and advocate on a broader level for ALL students, I jumped at the chance. This work changes lives and I'm proud to be a social worker.
What does a SLS Coordinator do for a school district and what are the most rewarding parts of your job? My job is to find any barrier to a students' education (housing, food, medical, immigration, mental health, etc) and find resources in the city, county, state or federal resources that can remove those barriers so students can focus on their education. The most rewarding part is letting a struggling family know there is support...the responses vary from crying to screaming for joy and I celebrate right alongside them.
What does Women's History Month mean for you, especially with the 2022 theme of Providing Healing, Providing Hope? Women hold a lot. We are often caregivers in our work and in our daily lives. Our families depend on us and we are often required to do more in the workplace for the same esteem that others may automatically receive. So to me, the 2022 theme of Providing Healing, Providing Hope is a reminder that we must engage in self-care and make ourselves a priority before we serve others. It seems counterintuitive sometimes, but the more we prioritize care for ourselves, the better we are able to care for others (or say NO if it's too much). I'm a big believer in Radical Self-Care...embedding healing practices into our daily lives to help buffer the stress of our work. That is how we heal and how we move forward with hope.
Any words of wisdom for MUSD students looking into SLS or a profession helping others. Know WHY you want to help and be sure your intentions to help are pure. What I mean is, this work of helping is not always met with thanks or appreciation, so you have to have the passion for it regardless of what you might (or might not) get in return. I've helped some folks with rent relief, food support, and clothing only for them to turn around and tell me I'm not doing enough to help them. I don't take it personally because I understand the situation they are in and the lack of control they feel. But you have to go into helping work without expectations of appreciation or acknowledgement. It may never come, so the reward has to be internal and intrinsic to the work.
Anything else you'd like to add or tell us about yourself? In an effort to support my own self-care over the past 10 years, I have become certified in trauma-informed yoga and sound healing. These practices, along with meditation, mindfulness, forest bathing, and other nature-focused practices, have been central to my ability to work 40+ hours a week with families experiencing challenges. This work is heartbreaking but I remind myself that I can care without carrying the weight of the work. These practices keep me grounded, centered, and present for my work...work I love and look forward to doing for a long time.
NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING:
The governing board of Milpitas Unified School District will hold a Public Hearing on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.