Name: Samantha Diaz
Major: Social Work
Year: Second-year graduate student
Proud to be a Bulldog: “My education at Fresno State has had a tremendous impact in my development as a student, social worker and individual. Through its diversity, I believe Fresno State has developed a school climate that values the culture of an array of students of ethnic backgrounds and supports identity development, mindset and sense of belongingness.”
Honors: Willodyne Eugenia Shields-Gaston Scholarship, William Filbert Davis Memorial Scholarhsip, Richard D. Ford Memorial Scholarship.
Faculty that inspire her: Dr. Kris Clarke and Kelly Tabay
Samantha Diaz’s heart lies in helping others.
The Master of Social Work student was drawn into the profession at a young age. Growing up in the small town of Fowler, just 25 minutes outside of Fresno, she experienced firsthand the many struggles of living in a low-income Latino household, marred with domestic violence and mental illness. All these experiences didn’t hinder her, but instead gave her greater strength, shaping her into the strong-willed and compassionate person she is today. She credits her grandmother for being her saving grace and leading her down the path she walks to this day.
“My grandmother was a positive influence in my life who supported me as well as my family, financially and emotionally, through the struggles we endured,” Diaz said. “Specifically, she believed in me and my value in this life. Essentially, she was my first social worker. My experience with her was definitely the driving force behind my decision to become a social worker.”
Diaz said her trials along the way strongly influenced her decision to become someone that could support other youth coping with similar life struggles, ultimately assisting and empowering them to meet their full potential. In fact, her career goals include working with youth and school-aged children in the public school system as a social worker.
She is well on her way, with plans to graduate this coming May with her master’s degree. She’s currently interning at Dinuba Unified School District, where she hopes to parlay this experience to her future career. Diaz is working on obtaining her Pupil Personnel Services Credential so that she can get one step closer to her goal.
“I want to work with students and their families from low socioeconomic backgrounds to assist them in recognizing and reaching their full potential,” Diaz said.
The field of social work is broad and widespread, serving many populations in a variety of settings – a component of the profession that Diaz is most fascinated in. Of that, she says, “It is using our own individual strengths with the education and life experience we have to tap into the strengths of others to assist them in their journeys of change. Again, I think empowering individuals, couples, families, and communities to influence change within their lives through highlighting and utilizing their own strengths (cultural beliefs, values, extended family support, skills, etc.) that they already possess is what makes the field of social work so interesting.”
While at Fresno State, Diaz has remained active on campus, where she served as a member of the First Nations Student Organization and social work student club, Trabajadores de la Raza. She was also president of the Social Work Student Association, where she coordinated a number of community service projects and fundraisers aimed at empowering the marginalized populations in the Valley. She said this leadership experience, provided through the University, has had a profound impact on her student life. She also credits the Student Health and Counseling Center on campus, for giving her the tools to stay healthy and focused on school work. Growing up, health insurance was not an option and health care was not readily accessible. It wasn’t until she was well into her teens that she was able to get proper medical care through Obamacare.
But most of all, Diaz pays dividends to her professors in the Department of Social Work Education who have truly paved her path throughout both her undergraduate and graduate careers at Fresno State.
“I have genuinely appreciated the authenticity of many of my social work professors who have shared their experiences with my classes regarding their experiences in the field and have gone the extra mile to provide support to students in their learning and overall development. They demonstrate the authenticity and commitment to their students and communities that I have always envisioned social workers to represent.”
March is recognized annually as National Professional Social Work Month, which provides an opportunity to shine a light on the profession and recognize the important and significant contributions social workers make on society.