Andy Checo, BS ’24, Awarded Behavioral Health Fellowship
Rising Senior Andy Checo, BS ’24, will spend six weeks this summer strengthening his behavioral health knowledge and receiving professional mentorship through a Behavioral Health Undergraduate Social Work Fellowship from the Northeast Regional Alliance (NERA) Health Careers Opportunity Program in partnership with the Mount Sinai Department of Social Work.
The fellowship program includes lectures and seminars, interdisciplinary educational sessions, supervised clinical experience and mentoring, as well as academic advising and support to prepare fellows for competitive applications to graduate social work programs.
After he applied, Andy was interviewed for the program by NYU Silver alumnae Laudy Burgos, BS ’97/MSW ’98, the Associate Director of Mount Sinai’s Department of Social Work and Program Manager for the Fellowship, and Emilia León, MSW ’18, an inpatient social worker at Mount Sinai and Program Assistant for the Fellowship. “I am grateful to Laudy and Emilia for seeing the potential in me,” said Andy. “I cannot wait to work and learn alongside both of them as well as Victor Ng from the Orthopedics department and Ryan Dritz from the Bone Marrow Transplant unit, who were assigned as my mentors for the program. It’s the mentorship and learning from social workers in all different units of the hospital that excites me most about the fellowship.”
Finding His Calling
Andy said he was drawn to the social work profession by his own experience. “For as long as I can remember, I had a passion for psychology. I loved learning about how the brain works and why people do what they do. But in my later years in high school, the school social worker literally found me at lunchtime, and said ‘you know, if you ever need to talk, you can come to me.’ One day, I took them up on the offer, and they weren’t diagnosing me. They weren’t looking into my brain. They were asking questions about my home life and what I do in my free time. They took a holistic approach, which I had never heard of before. So once, when we weren’t talking about what was going on in my life, I asked them what it means to be a social worker, and I realized that’s what I wanted to do.”
Faculty as Mentors
Asked what has been most impactful about his NYU Silver education, Andy said, “It has definitely been the mentorship and openness to sharing experiences. I feel like the professors bring so much of themselves and their professional experiences into the classroom and that’s what really helps us learn.”
Andy cited Clinical Associate Professor Peggy Morton and Clinical Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Program Director Cora de Leon as being particularly influential. “Dr. Morton has really encouraged me and helped me develop skills that I didn’t know I had in me to work with clients,” Andy said. “Dr. de Leon has helped me to feel confident in what I look like and how I’m presenting myself as a person of color in the field. She has used her own experiences with that to guide me and has given me space to share anything I need to.”
Andy also learned a great deal this past semester through his practicum learning as an intern at Nido de Esperanza, a non-profit early childhood intervention and comprehensive family support program in Washington Heights. There, Andy, who speaks both English and Spanish, assisted the program director and the social workers in providing case management, referrals, advocacy, and counseling to the parents enrolled in the program. Additionally, he conducted outreach to families to discuss topics such as parenting, health, education, and financial literacy. Andy will be returning to Nido de Esperanza for his senior year field placement in the fall and he is excited to bring the additional skills and insights he develops through the NERA Fellowship.
In addition to earning his BS in Social Work, Andy will graduate in May 2024 with minors in both Psychology and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies. He plans to seek his MSW and ultimately aims to work with children and families.
“Andy is an exceptional human being,” said Dr. de Leon. “He is at once interested and interesting and makes those around him feel welcome. Andy’s journey with Silver, Nido de Esperanza, and soon with the NERA Health Careers Opportunity Program means the communities with which he will work will be stronger and healthier and I’m so happy to be celebrating this moment with him.”