Joanna Celia, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), discusses the critical work that YouthConnect is doing throughout Boston for families in need of support.
YouthConnect is BGCB’s advocacy and intervention program that helps the most at-risk young people make positive life choices through trusting relationships with skilled and compassionate social workers, such as Joanna. Get to know her and YouthConnect in this month’s BGCB Employee Spotlight.
Hometown: Gloucester, MA
Favorite Food: Risotto
Favorite Movie: Rocky I-IV
Last Book You Read: No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder
Top Weekend Activity: Being anywhere in nature – mostly walking the beach or on a hike
Favorite Quote: “If you have the ability to help someone, you have an obligation to help them.” ~ Unknown
In Her Own Words:
What has your path to your current role at BGCB looked like?
Before I decided to get my master’s degree in Social Work, I went to an information session at Simmons College. It was there, I heard a Social Worker speak of her work at YouthConnect, and that’s when I decided to move forward with my degree. During my second year of school, my field advisor asked me to give her a list of placements for my internship. I gave her one: YouthConnect.
I started at YC as an MSW intern in 2018 and instantly fell in love with the work. I learned to navigate the many systems we work with, how to best advocate for our clients and families, and strengthened my clinical skills. In May 2019, I was fortunate enough to be hired, full time, and placed in the Domestic Violence Unit (DVU) at the Family Justice Center, a city-wide unit. The youth and families I work with are not just experiencing intimate partner violence but also family violence. Working in DVU has allowed me to work with other excellent programs in the city, focusing on helping survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Exploitation while still working with youth in the juvenile justice system. Domestic violence impacts youth in many ways, and the personal nature of the incidents at their home require me to be sensitive to each family’s unique situation while getting them the appropriate services. Luckily, at YouthConnect, we can be creative around our clinical interventions, which has made my work feel meaningful.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Picking a favorite part of my job is tough because I love all of it! If I had to choose, I would say my direct work with clients and families is most rewarding. Having people share their stories is a privilege and supporting them throughout their journey is such a special part of my job. At YouthConnect, supporting someone can take many forms, either by advocating for better services, connecting them to resources in the community, or simply being with them, so they feel heard. Regardless of my role with a client, I can take my time building relationships, so they trust the work we are doing together. Helping my clients feel empowered so that they can use their voice in the future is always my ultimate goal, and the most satisfying to watch unfold.
What do you like most about YouthConnect and BGCB?
One of the things I like most is working directly with the Boston Police Department because it allows us to receive referrals when youth and families are in crisis and most in need of services. Because we are a free, voluntary, and confidential program, most individuals choose to work with us and accept support, which tells me they want their situation to improve. This makes all the difference. It is one of the many reasons YouthConnect is a successful program, and why I love being part of this program.
Also, the work I do at YouthConnect can be challenging at times. So, working for a program that helps foster my well-being is incredibly important to me. Whether I am working on a tough case or going through something personally difficult, I work with a team of incredibly supportive people. My supervisor has always encouraged me to believe in myself, even when doubt sneaks in. The level of support I receive from her and my colleagues is unparalleled. YouthConnect’s positive impact on youth and families is the epitome of what inspired me to become a Social Worker, and I feel blessed every day to do this work.
The mission of Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston is to help young people, especially those who need us most, build strong character and realize their full potential as responsible citizens and leaders. We do this by providing a safe haven filled with hope and opportunity, ongoing relationships with caring adults, and life-enhancing programs.