I became a social worker for probably the same reasons others become social workers, and it is not because we get to leave our jobs with a truckload of money. Rather it's because we get to leave with a truck load of pride in what we do.
I met Marcial on March 23rd, 2017, exactly 3 weeks after I started at INCLUDEnyc. What I remember about him from our first meeting and every other time since then is his smile. How can I describe his smile so that when you read these words you can envision it exactly? It instantly brightens up a room and the people around him; his smile is megawatt.
I’ve always thought of myself as someone who can get the job done — no matter what is put in front of me, I know that I can accomplish my goals by any means necessary. However, the very first day that I met Marcial and his megawatt smile, I doubted myself. I doubted that I could help him, because here was a kid sitting in front of me with multiple obstacles in front of him. How was I supposed to help him overcome those obstacles?
Marcial was my very first Project Possibility case at INCLUDEnyc and this was the first intake I had ever done. I was afraid that he would be able to detect my high anxiety and how terrified I was. But as I usually do, I put on a smile and told him how happy I was to finally meet him. I began to go through the general questions that every standard intake has: name, address, hobbies etc.
One question in particular that I asked Marcial got an answer I wasn’t prepared for: “Do you want to go to college?” Marcial’s answer was a strong yes. “I want to go to college,” he told me, “because no one believes that I can. I’ve been told that I should stop wasting everyone's time, and that college isn't going to happen for me. I want to go to college not just for myself but for the people who think I can't make it because I have a disability; I want to prove them wrong.”
I wanted to cry, and not just a few tears falling down my face, I mean Halle Berry winning her Oscar ugly cry. Instead I nodded my head and said, “Okay, thank you for sharing,” and then I went on to the next question. In that moment something unexpected happened. I felt proud of a person that I had just met, a person I knew nothing about that was asking for my help.
Throughout the next two hours Marcial talked about his need to attend college as well as obtain employment and eventually get his own place. He laid out a plan for the next year of his life and he was very assured in what he wanted. What impressed me the most about him was his resiliency and his willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve his dreams. I’ve always been interested in exploring where resiliency comes from in individuals. How did Marcial become so resilient, so determined? I had to ask myself if it mattered how Marcial became so resilient. The only real question, of course, was how was I going to help this determined young man?
I began to panic, experiencing moments of doubt in myself. Thinking about what would happen if I failed him.I had to remind myself that this was not about me, this was about the young man sitting in front of me with cerebral palsy who told me that there are people who have told him he can't succeed. This young man who sits in front of me with his megawatt smile, it’s about him.
Marcial and I have done a lot of work together in the past three months and the road hasn't been easy. But he is so determined. He fights through every corner and every winding road.
He said he wanted to work. Together, we got all of his paperwork together, and submitted a number of applications. With some interview preparation and support, Marical became employed at Cold Stone Creamery in Queens as a greeter.
He said he wanted to go to college. Together, we submitted his applications to the Borough of Manhattan Community College, as well as Queens Community College. We are eagerly awaiting his acceptance letters, and I can’t wait for the day that we to go tour the college he chooses and visit the accessibility office to set him up for success.
He wants to major in criminal justice to continue to fight for people of color and people with disabilities. Marcial’s success is all his. He has done all of the hard work. I am just so proud to see this young man with the megawatt smile reach his potential, meet his goals and ultimately, succeed in life.