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Joan Smith

Tucson, AZ – Joan Smith, a College Success Arizona alumnus, is using her college education to help children in Tucson.

Joan says, “I currently work as a social worker for a behavioral health organization called Intermountain, which serves children and adult populations, but I’m on the children’s team. In my job I’m considered a recovery coach, where I’ll go in and talk to the family and talk with the kids about setting up some interventions to help with some of the behaviors. So, we’re a behavior-based agency where we believe that going in with some concrete things that allow us to measure progress in treatment is the most helpful. For example, if a child can’t sit still for more than five minutes, then it’s my job to plan an intervention, such as making it a game with a built-in reward system to sit still longer than five minutes, which the child can win, and get past certain behaviors.”

Joan, age 24, was born and raised in Yuma, Arizona and graduated from Cibola High School in 2012. She went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Arizona, graduating in 2016.

Joan says for her, Tucson was an escape “I came from a domestic violence kind of family. So, my move from Yuma to Tucson to go to college was the best move I’ve ever made, because I was able to cut ties with that toxicity. And then the transition from college to work was sort of hard, because Arizona is not exactly well known for having a very good social work system, so it’s been very hard finding a job in the profession that I love. And, then the first job I got was also very toxic, which was hard going from college to a place that was not a very good environment. But, thankfully I got the job which I have now, where they value their employees.”

Joan tells us that she’s always wanted to work and serve in a profession centered on helping others, such as Social Work:

“I realized pretty early in life that I am motivated by protecting people, and helping people, because that’s what I was expected to do by my other siblings when we were growing up in a bad environment. And, then when I was growing up a teacher helped pull me out of depression which was caused by my home situation. So, my job now and my mission now is a ‘permanent pay it forward’ sort of thing.”

Meanwhile, Joan is among the hundreds of high potential students from low income circumstances who have earned scholarships from College Success Arizona. The scholarship provides up to six-thousand dollars per year for educational expenses and also specialized mentoring services through a team of “Success Advisers.”

Joan says the scholarship was life-changing and life-saving, “I completely understand how the CSA mentors can be very helpful for most college students who lose their way a little, but in my case, I was already focused and prepared to succeed in college. But, the monetary aspect was extremely helpful. If it wasn’t for the scholarship, I’m not sure that I would have ever gotten away (from my family in Yuma), and if I hadn’t gotten away I don’t think that I would be alive today. Even if I was alive today, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get through college, or get into social work here in Tucson, because I wouldn’t have been able to pay for college.”

For middle and high school students in Yuma and across the state, who may be considering college, Joan says, “You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do with your life, most people don’t. A lot of high school graduates want to take a break before starting college to figure out what they want to do, but if you take a break you won’t come back. So, the best thing is to get into college and use the first year or two taking elective classes, which can help you determine what you want to do for a career. Also, have fun and join some clubs, because I would never have found about social work if I hadn’t started volunteering. Even if you don’t get into the college of your dreams, the program of your dreams, the job of your dreams – at least you learned something along the way and you grew as a person, and that might get you to the next step that you actually want.”

Since 2005, College Success Arizona has worked with nearly 1,300 students, and provided more than 16 million dollars in scholarships and success services to help increase the college attainment rate in Arizona. If you would like to be part of the mission of providing educational opportunity to high potential students from low income circumstances, your tax-deductible contribution can be made through the “Donate” button on the topo of this page.

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