Massiel Hernandez ’17 ’18 MSW has an infectious positive attitude in all that she does. “The idea of helping someone was engrained in me as a child,” she said. Through her academic years and now career, Hernandez uses her “suitcase of knowledge and tools” she obtained as a UCF School of Social Work student to compliment her innate passion to help others.
Hernandez started a family when she was 16 years old, however that did not deter her from her goal of helping others. “I still had all the dreams in the world, so I promised my baby boy that he would have an educated mother,” she said.
Many years later she decided it was ‘now or never.’ “I walked into Mrs. Robin Kohn’s office with my 12-year-old and told Mrs. Kohn, ‘I am here to be a social worker,’” she said. With the right credentials and Hernandez’s determination, BSW program director Robin Kohn guided her on the process.
“I could see the determination Massiel had to return to school, earn her BSW and MSW degree, and be a role model for her children. Her energy and passion to give back to the community was evident as she jumped in engaging in community projects and became a strong leader in the process,” said Kohn.
One of the key requirements of the MSW program is an internship. During one, Hernandez met a single mother whose 6-month-old twins were diagnosed with a rare disease known as spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). “It was hard seeing the medical tubes in the babies and knowing all we could do was help the mother with the bare necessities, like cribs and other products,” said Hernandez. At that time SMA did not have any treatment.
That experience led Hernandez to better understand the clinical aspect of social work and is what ultimately led her to her current position as a pediatric clinical social worker in the epilepsy and neurology clinic of a hospital in Central Florida. “We recently had a family with a child diagnosed with the same disease, but now SMA has treatment. And as a practicing social worker, I am now able to help the family prepare for the health journey of their child and not for death,” said Hernandez.
Hernandez believes that the clinical practice tools and knowledge she acquired while obtaining her MSW allows her to respond to her client’s needs effectively. “During my interview for this position, I was told that my internships and interprofessional education workshops, like the Apopka Clinic, stood out on my resume,” she said.
While Hernandez said attending college as a non-traditional student was a bit daunting for her, she had a good support system from her professors, peers and family that made it possible and gave her the strength to keep going. “I learned to celebrate myself. My A papers would be on the fridge right next to my children’s A papers!” Hernandez said.
Now, instead of celebrating her grades, Hernandez celebrates the individuals and families she is able to help through the career she always wanted.