by Lorie Citarella
Without recognizing it at the time, my journey into social work began after high school. During the year 1993, I entered college for the first time on a full scholarship to play division one basketball for St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY. At the age of 17, I was immersed in an unknown world filled with diversity and differences, lacking self awareness and a support system. I was there because it was what my parents wanted. After one year, I dropped out. Twenty years later, I see that leaving college at 18 was one of the numerous needed steps in my life’s journey. Had I stayed in college at that time, I would have missed out on so many spectacular opportunities for personal growth.
One of these experiences took place at the age of 20 in Colorado. I assisted in teaching survival training for a program called “Touch the Earth.” I lived in a tee-pee along the San Juan River, and my closest neighbors were a Native American family. The understanding I gained through this experience varied from respect to perseverance. Still today, this is one of my fondest memories of personal development.
From there, I spent the next few years traveling the east coast, passing time with people who reflected all types of socioeconomic backgrounds. The major differences between the educated and uneducated populations of this country started to become clear to me. Working for minimum wage was not enough to pay the rent, utilities, food, and gas, so at the age of 23, I had become homeless for a period of six months. Reflecting back upon this situation, I am proud of myself for having the inner strength and motivation to overcome this experience and to continue on with my journey into the unknown world of adulthood.
Through that strength and courage, I returned to New Jersey and found employment working with horses. With the knowledge and experience I gained at that job, I was able to start interacting with more wild animals. This led me to specifically working with African elephants in a very male dominated industry.
Although it has been challenging at times, I am firmly grounded in the belief that no one can stop me from achieving anything I set my mind to. I know that everything I need in life lies within me. I recognize the power of my thoughts, the value of self-awareness, and the responsibility in my choices. Through my life’s journey, I have become aware of the importance of being non-judgmental toward myself and others. I feel that it is this belief that gives people the feeling of comfort when I interact with them. I believe that my life experience, combined with the knowledge gained through obtaining a BSW, will lead me to become a devoted and compassionate social worker.
Lorie Citarella is a full-time student at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and is interning at Meridian Nursing and Rehabilitation in Brick, NJ. She looks forward to graduating with her BSW in May 2015.