Alumna counsels children from homeless to hopeful

PITTSBURGH – Alizé Strickland ’20 has always given back as a community and church volunteer. In Carlow University’s Bachelor of Social Work program, she learned how to shape her helpfulness into a career. She found her calling as the family engagement coordinator for Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF).

Children and youth may lose access to the basic need of shelter for a variety of reasons, and that homelessness disrupts their normal development. HCEF is there to help.

“We meet them where they are, wherever they need us to be, and help by providing the resources they need,” Strickland said.

It is a dream job for Strickland that followed a successful internship with HCEF during her senior year at Carlow.

Assistant Professor Jessica Friedrichs, directs Carlow’s field education.

“Alizé’s field placement internship at HCEF is a good example of the types of experiences that Carlow’s BSW students have because she was able to practice skills working with individuals, families, groups, communities and with political advocacy,” Friedrichs said.

Strickland’s internship entailed work with individuals and small groups at homeless shelters, where she tutored children in literacy and social-emotional skills. On a broader level, she organized Homeless Children’s Awareness Month events; conducted research to learn about diversity within the population and the relevant public policies that support children experiencing homelessness; and used the organization’s data tracking and evaluation systems.

“At Carlow, our goal for our BSW students in field placement is for students to be mentored to learn the skills to support individuals and families but also to advocate for community change, so Alize’s internship was really a perfect fit,” Friedrichs said.

In her senior year at Carlow, Strickland received the BSW Award for Field Excellence, based on her extraordinary passion. The staff at HCEF were impressed by the intern’s self-motivation to present a strengths-based model of social work to staff and then to help incorporate the new approach into the organization.

“We were not surprised at all that she was hired at the organization after completing her internship, and we know she will bring so much to the social work profession.” Friedrichs said.

Now in a full-time role, Strickland continues to advocate for homeless children with a focus on coordinating efforts to secure access to education. Strickland serves as a bridge between elementary schools in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Strickland said, “Based upon referrals, I provide clients with help or resources, whether that be a laptop, school supplies, hygiene products, or anything else that may be a barrier to their education.”

Clients are eligible for HCEF assistance if they are considered homeless as defined by the McKenney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987, meaning “individuals who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.” Most clients need temporary assistance that may range from two months to two years.

The BSW program gave Strickland the skills she applies every day. Faculty would use role-playing to have students act as therapists while also giving them the chance to play the role of clients. Courses in case management and research developed tactical skills in interviewing, note-taking, and how to plan research and record data.

“I always just wanted to help people who were at a disadvantage,” Strickland said.

While Carlow equips students with job-ready knowledge and skills, Strickland is living proof that one can turn a passion into a career.

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