Out of town transplants typically come to the Schenectady JCC to register their child for preschool, workout at the fitness center or meet people. Queens transplant Afifa Yusufi came to the JCC for a different reason: to complete a field instruction requirement in the graduate social work program at the prestigious Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work.
“As the JCC didn’t have a formal internship program, I wasn’t sure how things would develop; but I remained open to a new environment and challenging learning experience. I wondered how my role as a social work student would mesh into the various programs at the SJCC. Most of all, I really hoped that my field instructor and I would work well together.” Afifa reflected.
Afifa is part of Wurzweiler’s “Summer Block” program, which allows students to complete the bulk of their coursework over three consecutive summers while completing two academic years of in-field, on-the-job training in the students’ home community. Wurzweiler opened its doors in 1957 “as America’s only graduate social work school under Jewish auspices,” and today draws a diverse Jewish and non-Jewish student body from North America, Israel, and around the world.
Wurzweiler partners with agencies to provide its students with top-notch field placements, and many people play a role in creating the learning experience. Supervising Afifa’s work is JCC School Age Assistant Director Tiffany Smith. Afifa commented that “Tiffany is amazing and continuously goes above and beyond to make sure I gain the most from my learning experience at the SJCC.” She added that “I feel extremely grateful to have worked with such wonderful people”, including [SJCC Executive Director] Mark Weintraub and my field supervisor, Raesa Kaiteris . Ms. Kaiteris is the Associate Director of Field Instruction at Wurzweiler.
Afifa’s direct work at the SJCC includes youth programming, but her learning experience goes beyond that. A highlight of her internship was writing a proposal for a mentorship program geared for middle school age youth. This program is unique, in that most mentorship programs focus on those in high school, college or later years. Afifa’s experience embodies both Wurzweiler’s and the SJCC’s commitments to diversity, welcoming, and inclusion. Originally from Afghanistan, this was important to Afifa. “To SJCC’s credit, I have felt very welcome at the center and did so from the start.”
As the first year’s internship concludes May, 2014 it has been deemed a success by all involved. “I believe that the SJCC – Wurzweiler collaboration has met the objectives of both institutions and most importantly provided Afifa with a significant learning experience. It has been my pleasure to serve as Afifa’s faculty advisor this year. She is an intelligent, energetic and invested student with a long and successful career in social work ahead of her. ” commented Wurzweiler’s Raesa Kaiteris.
Adds Weintraub “We have also had some general discussions about expanding the relationship to possible areas such as connecting with academics who specialize in the JCC field or training opportunities. It is my hope that we can continue and deepen our relationship with YU – one of the great centers of learning in New York”.