Students in Action

Meet Katie Bullard a Palm Beach Gardens campus student. Bullard is in her concentration year of internship, and is currently working with children and teens who have experienced severe trauma, specifically sexual abuse.

"During the first few months at my internship, I quickly realized that building rapport and creating a trusting relationship with the clients would be my biggest challenge. After all, these clients came from a background of extensive traumas, abuse and neglect, so trusting or confiding in a stranger was likely the least of their concerns. Every time I would gain a new client, it would take several weeks until they felt comfortable speaking with me, let alone making eye contact. I brainstormed and practiced different ideas and activities to do together, but when it came time to sit in a formal session, the clients shut down every time.

In school, we are always taught to bridge gaps and bring ourselves into our practice. I have always been very passionate about my pets, so I thought I would try introducing a puppy into the sessions. As any pet owner knows, there’s an immediate sense of comfort when we see our pets after a long day at work, so I hoped for a similar effect for the clients. My first puppy assistant was a cuddly and fluffy six-month old Belgian Malinois puppy. We walked into the office together, and the client’s eyes lit up like nothing I had seen before. For the first time, the office was full of laughter and smiles. We processed the same heavy topics in session, but this time the girls felt more comfortable around me and finally started opening up to the process. I’ll never forget what one of the girls said to me that day: ‘Ms. Katie, please bring him back. It’s so much better this way, because I can look him in the eyes while I’m talking to you, and that’s so much easier on me.’ I realized I was on to something. A puppy could expedite the rapport building process like nothing else I had tried before. So I put up a Facebook post to see if there are other puppy volunteers I could use. I received over 30 responses from local friends who were willing to let me borrow their puppies and use them with the children. I prefer to use puppies younger than one, because they are less autonomous and, therefore, more cuddly. However, I did use adults that were smaller breeds, like chihuahuas, shih tzu, and French bulldogs. I wanted to see if a certain breed cuddled and comforted better than the others, so I experimented with all sorts of breeds, including German shepherds, pit bulls, Australian shepherds, labs and terrier mixes. I found that the best dogs to use didn’t actually depend on breed, but more so on friendly demeanor. Sometimes, the puppies were used just to cuddle with, and other times puppies would be used to practice assertive communication, foster an empathetic environment and emotion identification assistance. Some puppies didn’t do well in the environment, but it was still a nice break for the girls to have a dog visit.

Lismerys M. Toledo is an MSW advance standing student at Barry University School of Social Work in Miami Shores, FL. Ms. Toledo is finishing her field placement at the University of Miami Mailman center for Child Development where she works with families and individuals with special needs. During her placement she was selected as the Leadership Development in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program liaison. As the liaison she completed an advocacy project tailored towards meeting a gap of service for the WIC program at the UM/Jackson hospital. She also leads volunteer projects with other LEND trainees and in November, attended the annual leadership conference for the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) in Washington, D.C. On her spare time, she serves as the Legislative Chair for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) - Miami Dade Unit where she stays up to date with policy and advocacy projects that pertain to the social work profession. Due to Ms. Toledo’s dedication and commitment to the social work profession she has been selected as the 2016 NASW-Miami Dade-Unit, Social Work Student of the Year award. The award was established to honor a student who has demonstrated great potential in leadership and community service while also maintaining a course load in the university setting.

Luzcelina Garcia knows well the struggles of coming to the US from another country in the hopes to start again. Coming to the country at first as an illegal immigrant, she now is giving back to her community with the help of Barry University professors and staff.

A current MSW student at Fort Myers, Luzcelina created the Organizacion Internacional de Latinos en el Exterior (OILE).” This project was born after having the SW-529 Enviromental Context for SW Practice with Dr. Clark, and SW-533 Social Service Environment with Mr. Stryker. Dr. Clark and Mr. Stryker were a great inspiration to start this project. I resigned my paid Victims Advocate Case Manager position to start this new adventure. I am realistic, I cannot change the world, but can change one person at a time”.

OILE’s mission is to improve the quality of life of Latinos in Southwest Florida by providing, amongst other things, immigration support. The organization serves & improves the quality of life for Latinos residing in Southwest Florida through educational programs, counseling, accredited immigration services, outreach activities which emphasize empowerment & self-sufficiency. Luzcelina works with victims of a crime, provides parenting educational support groups, and partners with other community-based agencies to fulfill the gaps within the community to assist the Latino population.

“I have a community who is very supportive. The board of directors have been a great support system and we work as a team. The organization is a 501 C-3 non-profit, and we can receive donations too. The donations will be use for immigration trainings to be able to qualify for the BIA.”

For more information contact: Irene Kepler

Tammy Malloy, LCSW, CSAT is a PhD Student at BUSSW. She is also currently the Chief Clinical Officer at Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches where she has worked for 8 years, starting as an intern while in the MSW program. “Being that I have been at this organization for many years, we have several programs that I have worked on with staff carrying out the program. The organization is Joint Commission and DCF accredited. When we were audited this year by The Joint Commission, the auditor, who is a social worker, was blow away by how we individualize patients who have experienced trauma (which is 90% of our patients). They stated that so many programs state that they "treat trauma" but that most of the programs are not "trauma informed". The social worker recommended us for Best Practices for Trauma-Informed Addiction Treatment”. Tammy is currently working with other students to disseminate the “Trauma Model” to others. “Working in addiction has its challenges BUT every day we get to guide people down a path that they may have never found.”

Ryan Miller is an MSW student at the Palm Beach Gardens Campus. He has worked in the substance abuse field for almost 5 years. He has interned at a The Pavilion (inpatient psych) at West Palm Hospital for the past two years and has held positions of counselor and case manager. He is currently the Alumni Coordinator at Futures of Palm Beach in Tequesta, Florida where he started their alumni program from scratch.

Ryan is also a nationally certified recovery coach and serves as co-leader of TPAS (Treatment Professionals in Alumni Services). TPAS is a nationwide non-profit professional’s organization committed to continue developing best practices in the area of aftercare services. In this role, he helps facilitate the day to day operations of the organization and is intimately involved in planning and executing the two annual Collaboratives (conferences).

“I have instituted two unique practices at Futures, including "Coining In" and "Days of Ascent." Most treatment centers "coin out" or "graduate" their clients. We don't believe in the idea of graduation. Instead, we hold a ceremony welcoming clients to recovery. Days of Ascent is an offer of lifetime treatment for active alumni of our program. Several times per year, alumni can return to campus to partake in free treatment”.

As Alumni Coordinator at Futures, he helps organize and participates in several community events outside of the field of recovery. “Our second annual holiday alumni gift giving campaign is rapidly approaching. Alumni from around the country donate money and local alumni purchase toys and household items for children in need.” This year they have partnered with SOS Children's Village in Broward county- a foster care community.