Second-year DSW student Jessica Chock-Goldman is the school social worker at New York City’s highly selective Stuyvesant High School. Her goal is to work to restructure how mental health and suicidality is addressed within the New York City Department of Education (DOE). Since beginning our DSW program in fall 2018, Chock-Goldman has expanded her expertise in adolescent suicide prevention and intervention and has been invited to present at some of the field’s most prestigious conferences and university programs.
Why is earning a DSW important for you to achieve your goal?
The DSW program is giving me the opportunity to do the background research to understand what I could bring both structurally and policy-wise in order to make changes in the DOE. At NYU, you find your area of interest, which I knew coming in, and then you start researching and writing papers, and honing in more and more on your topic, unraveling it until you find something that really stands out, and then you build on that.
In addition, I believe having a DSW gives you credibility and the credentials to be in a higher-level position.
Why did you choose NYU Silver for your DSW?
Well, I got my MSW here, which I loved. And I was drawn to NYU’s in-person program. I think the only way to learn is to be doing the work in a classroom with the professors. It really helps you to concentrate on your area. NYU allows you to tailor the program so that it meets your individual academic, career, and professional goals. And I love that I can work full-time and have classes just one evening a week – and spend lots of weekends writing.
Who are your mentors in the program?
My primary mentor is Associate Professor Jennifer Manuel. She taught my Implementing Evidence-Based and Evidence-Informed Practices class, and I thought immediately “this is who I need to work with.” She is so smart, calm, and really knows her material. Although adolescent suicide is not her specialty, her expertise in evidence-based practices is very relevant, and she was excited about my topic and my goal to make structural changes at the DOE.
I have also begun to work with Assistant Professor Kathrine Sullivan, who, like me, focuses on transforming large, bureaucratic systems. She is young and relatively new to academia so she is a doing a lot of publishing and presenting, which is great for me.
Then, from the outside, my mentor is Dr. Ruth Gerson, who is the head doctor at Bellevue Children's Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (C-CPEP), the children's emergency psychiatry department that we work with at Stuyvesant. I am all about the collaborative approach and I love that I am partnered with a hospital. Not only did [DSW Program Director] Carol Tosone not object to my having an outside mentor, she thought it was great.
What are you currently working on?
There are two papers I am working on right now. The first examines adolescent suicide prevention and intervention in schools specifically with a high achieving population. I use something called the Cultural Assessment for Risk of Suicide (CARS) model, which looks at the different sociocultural influences and ethnicity of the population you're working with and how to tailor prevention and intervention. At Stuyvesant and a lot of other schools for high achieving students, the population is largely Asian-American, for whom therapy and mental health is a new language and children tend to face high pressure to succeed. So you have to tailor both the questions you ask the students as well as how you work with the families to get their children help.
The other paper that I have just began working on – and I am hoping this will be my capstone project – is looking at New York City's school system and how we deal with mental health. We are behind other school systems in our country. For example, New Jersey requires suicide training in their schools every single year. New York has suggested suicide trainings. Kids spend more waking hours in school than any other place, so we need to be doing this work in our schools to protect our kids.
Is it correct that you became a frequent presenter at conferences after you entered the DSW program?
Yes. Being a doctoral candidate has given me credibility. Since starting the program, I have presented on High-Achieving Adolescents, Acculturation, and School Social Work Intervention at several conferences and universities. In March 2020, I will be giving a 90-minute presentation on the topic at the National Association of School Social Workers conference; in April, I will be giving an hour-long talk at the American Association of Suicidology, which is the biggest conference in my field; and in June. I will be presenting on The Interplay of Culture and Adolescent Suicide: Acculturation, Suicidality and SSW Intervention at the NASW National Conference. I have also been invited to guest lecture on assessing suicide ideation at two schools of social work and I have been invited to present at the Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School Course on School Mental Health in January 2021.
Is there anything you have worked on since you began the DSW Program that you are particularly proud of?
Yes. As I mentioned earlier, we do not have mandated suicide trainings for social workers and school counselors in New York. When I was presenting at the New York State Suicide Prevention Conference in Albany this past September, I met Pat Breux, Director of School and Youth Initiatives at the Suicide Prevention Center of New York. She moderated my panel at the conference and we aligned immediately. I invited her to Stuyvesant to do a Manhattan-wide suicide prevention training on Election Day, when school is closed but we are required to do professional development. I set up a team with Pat and our superintendent to organize the event, and six weeks later, we had 80 clinicians there at Stuyvesant doing the training!
Do you have recommendations for other people considering a DSW at Silver?
What I say to people coming in is know what your area of interest is, what you want to learn, and what you want to get from the program. If you do, then you will be able to hone in on building your knowledge and skills. It is so exciting to have this space where you can explore your topic, and it is a privilege to be able to work with the faculty. What the program is doing is enabling me to propel my career.
Visit Chock-Goldman's website, jessicachockgoldman.com to learn more about her work at her work.