I have taken pride in being a person of integrity by taking responsibilities for my actions and decisions while making an active effort to do what is right, even when it's easier not to. Throughout my senior year, especially in my last semester, I've had the question of what my post-graduation plans would actually be, in the back of my mind, with no actual resolution until a couple of weeks ago.

During the fall semester, I needed to conduct an informational interview for my professional communication class and needed to job shadow for my health communication course. I shot two birds with one stone and conducted the informational interview with the Program Manager of Psychotherapy and Intake at FrontLine Service in Cleveland, and shadowed her for the second half of her day. I have a family friend who works there, who was able to put me in touch with the Program Manager and have been volunteering with them every year during the Christmas season since they started their event, Twinkle Shop, three years ago.

Overall, the professional experience was successful. I learned so much about the organization and realized that I would love to work there someday. There are over thirty different programs offered by FrontLine to assist with mental health, poverty, and homelessness in the community. The Program Manager told me how the organization is more egalitarian in nature, in that all employees are seen as equal, no matter what their position; she shared with me how the majority of employees have their masters in social work.

I was intrigued by this, since I've wanted to work in mental health since I started the art therapy program at Cuyahoga Community College, four years ago this upcoming fall. Unfortunately, art therapy is not a practical choice for me, since I would need a year of studio art courses before gaining admissions to the only graduate school that offers an art therapy masters program in Ohio, which is a private college and extremely expensive. It did not make sense for me to pursue this, so instead, I made a compromise with myself and instead, would utilize my creative arts therapist certification from Tri-C in my future mental health practices.

Then, after consulting my dad, who is a licensed social worker, about whether to pursue mental health counseling or social work, I was encouraged to pursue social work as the more versatile option with more job opportunities, even if I wasn't actually interested in any of them.

In an attempt to move forward somehow, I requested information from the University of Akron and Case Western Reserve University about social work graduate programs. Over winter break, Case Western sent an email about early admissions and their leadership fellowship opportunity that would cover full tuition for their nationally ranked, top ten graduate program in social work. I applied on a whim and got the application in one minute late, which was later confirmed with the director of admissions as not being a problem. There were seven spots available, and I did not get one of them, though I was still granted admissions to their program with a small, merit-based scholarship.

I spent the rest of spring semester going back and forth in my mind, trying to make a decision. In theory, I would have had to mortgage my life to pay off the loans necessary for this program, which wouldn't make much sense, since social workers do not make a whole lot of money, anyhow, and I was settling for this profession because it was more practical in the eyes of those I consulted. Still, I was so excited to get into this school, that I didn't care, I just wanted to go.

My best friends were encouraging me, while my parents were trying to bring me back down to earth. I felt so insecure with all other areas of my life, especially dating and relationships, that I knew I was trying to fill a void of sorts, by pursuing a future career I was settling for at a school too expensive.

Instead of graduate school, I am working on finding a job at FrontLine Service and am considering going back to school for mental health counseling with a specialization in trauma recovery, down the road. I can be so stubborn, but once I go through my own process, I am able to see a situation for what it really is.