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Social workers are unsung heroes. 

Few know that each school in our district has its own Social Worker, and even fewer know about the many roles our Social Workers juggle in caring for students and staff. 

This month, we’d like to sing their praises, show you their day-to-day work lives, and direct you toward some of their services before the holidays hit.

Today’s interview is with Mary Alisa, Dixon Middle School’s Social Worker, sharing how her life led to social work while offering avenues for service.

Q: What got you interested in Social Work? Was Dixon Middle School your first school?

A: I actually started my Bachelor’s degree in English. In the middle of my degree, I lived in El Salvador. I loved the country and the people. And I got to see where people needed aid. When I got back, I changed my degree to Social Work. I wanted to work in the field; connecting people with resources, helping people, and serving people. 

I graduated from BYU Hawaii with my Bachelor’s in Social Work and eventually went to UVU for my Master’s in Social Work. I did my practicum here in Provo City School District at Sunset View Elementary. I loved it so much that I looked for a job in Provo and found a position at Dixon Middle School. 

I love the students, I love the student body and the teachers, and I love doing Social Work.

Q: What does a Social Worker do?

A: Social Workers assist with social, emotional, mental and behavioral issues as part of the total educational process. The Social Worker’s job is to collaborate with administration, teachers, and parents to help students find success in and out of the classroom.

I always think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; if students don’t meet their physiological and safety needs, they can’t learn and find self-fulfillment.

Q: What specific, day-to-day practices do Social Workers do to help students meet their needs?

A: It can be something as small as meeting one-on-one or in small groups with students showing signs of depression, anxiety or other issues. We have a Kindness Club and a Hope Squad in each school for bully and suicide prevention. We meet with parents and visit homes to help with attendance or behavioral issues and physical needs. Everyday we work with our admin, counselors and teachers to address the needs of our students. I love the variety of our jobs. 

Now, nearing the cold season and the holidays, we want to ensure our families are cared for and have what they need. All district Social Workers work with United Way’s Sub for Santa; if any families need a little assistance this season, families can apply for the program in order to make sure every kid receives some gifts for Christmas, usually including books, educational toys or winter clothes. We can also direct anyone wanting to give to families in our district towards a good place to do so. For any questions about giving or receiving this holiday season, please reach out to your school’s Social Worker. 

Here at Dixon, we have a mobile school pantry hosted by the Utah Food Bank that delivers food once a month. Anyone who comes to the West side of our school after the final bell on Pantry Day can pick up fresh produce, bread, canned food, cereal etc. We send out the dates by email and text to our families. It’s a great resource for our Dixon community (You can give food to the Utah Food Bank here).

We also have Thanksgiving baskets put together by some generous families in our community. This particular neighborhood gathers items, assembles and then delivers these beautiful baskets with turkeys, potatoes and stuffing, all the yummy Thanksgiving foods. It’s incredible. 

(We’ll cover the Thanksgiving baskets in a future article).

Lastly, we’re coordinating with KUTV’s Eye on Your Money Holiday Food Drive at Centennial Middle School on November 17, 2022, 3:30 – 6:30 PM to aid families in our district. We’re looking for boots, coats, and canned food. Find more information about how to donate in person or online to the food drive here.

We need to know where there is a need, so please reach out if you need help this season.

Spencer Tuinei
  • Communication Specialist
  • Spencer Tuinei