Three NYU Silver MSW Students Awarded CSWE Minority Fellowships

Hennesis Castillo, Patrice James, and Eleanor Kriseman
Hennesis Castillo, Patrice James, and Eleanor Kriseman

Class of 2018 MSW students Hennesis Castillo, Patrice James, and Eleanor Kriseman, have been awarded 2017-18 fellowships from the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Now is the Time: Minority Fellowship Program–Youth. The program, which was established by CSWE in 2014-15, aims to reduce health disparities and improve behavioral health outcomes for racially and ethnically diverse children, adolescents, and youth in transition to adulthood (16-25) by increasing the number of culturally competent master’s-level social work professionals serving this population.

Funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the fellowship program provides a $6,500 stipend; specialized training on mental health issues of children, adolescents, and transition-age youths; and other professional development supports to select MSW students who are committed to providing behavioral health services to children, adolescents, and transition-age youths in underserved minority communities after they graduate.

“We are so proud that three of our students were awarded this prestigious fellowship, which will enhance their capacity to serve vulnerable youth and advance health equity,” said James I. Martin, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and MSW Program Director. “These students exemplify the strong commitment our School has to advancing social justice for those who are most marginalized.”

Hennesis Castillo said her goal after graduation is to work with adolescents with substance use disorders. “Substance use treatment is a calling for me,” she said. “Growing up, it was everywhere in my community, but there was nothing in terms of drug treatment for youth -- it was not even spoken about in school. That needs to change.” Castillo said she intends to be both a counselor and an advocate for underserved teens who are struggling with addiction. She is currently gaining valuable experience working with both adult and adolescent substance users in her field placement at Samaritan Village’s outpatient treatment center in Jamaica, Queens, and she said she is grateful for the additional training she will receive through the CSWE fellowship. “The lectures and events CSWE provides us will increase my competency to serve diverse young people with behavioral health challenges.”

After she graduates, Patrice James hopes to provide integrated family therapy at a prison reentry program serving transition age youth. “It is as important for young adults coming home from prison to receive mental health counseling as it is for them to get housing and employment assistance,” she said. “We need to bring to light the mental challenges the formerly incarcerated face, not just because of their prison experience but also because of the oppression and exploitation they have experienced throughout their lives as Black and Brown people.” James said her passion and perspective come mainly from what she has learned in NYU Silver classes on criminal justice reform and mass incarceration. She is currently fulfilling her passion through her field placement at the Center for Court Innovation’s Midtown Community Court, where she provides counseling to youth aged 19 to 25 charged with minor violations. “My aim,” she said, “is to reduce their likelihood of future interactions with the justice system. Through the CSWE fellowship, I look forward to gaining additional behavioral health skills. I want to be as sharp and prepared as I can possibly be.”

Eleanor Kriseman plans to work as a mental health clinician at a school-based health clinic after she graduates. “I like the model of school based health centers,” she said. “It's a practical and convenient way of getting services to underserved populations.” Kriseman said she was spurred to want to work with racially and ethnically diverse youth “by seeing the need and seeing all the helpful and unhelpful ways in which that need is addressed.” She is currently gaining hands-on experience counseling adolescents in her field placement at the Institute for Family Health’s Washington Irving Campus School-Based Health Center, which serves students from six different high schools housed in the building. Kriseman decided to pursue her MSW after working for several years in publishing and, in addition to the specialized training she will receive from the CSWE fellowship, she looks forward to meeting the rest of the fellows. “As I have not always been on this career path, I don’t have as many connections or friends with the same professional interests. It will be nice to expand that community.”