‘After helping a student I always feel hopeful’: local social worker talks about her journey

April 4, 2023 /

Yanin Ayon decided that she wanted to become a school social worker to do her part in helping students feel safer at school and learn skills and techniques that they can use to enhance their mental wellness well into adulthood.

Ayon is a first-generation college student and the daughter of farm-working immigrant parents. She is from Tulare County, was born and raised in Porterville, and then moved to San Diego during her undergrad.

“While I was away I realized that everything I was learning I wanted to be able to instill back into my community, which is why I returned to Porterville and decided to pursue my MSW near home,” said Ayon. “I was previously employed with the Tulare County Office of Education and am now employed with Delano Union School District where I get to serve the wonderful students of Delano.”

Ayon got her bachelor’s degree from California State University, San Marcos in Sociology and then went on to pursue her master’s degree in social work at California State University, Bakersfield.

“After obtaining my MSW I decided to also pursue my Pupil Personnel Services Credential (PPSC) in social work, which I obtained from California State University Sacramento, which just provides me with more knowledge about the school systems since I knew I wanted to work in schools,” said Ayon.

Ayon said all social workers get into this job for a reason and her own life experiences and her love for learning definitely played a role in helping her become a social worker.

“I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a social worker, but I did always know I wanted to work in the school system,” said Ayon. “I love school, but I know the majority of students don’t, and it makes me so sad because students spend such a large portion of their lives there, one would hope they are enjoying it!”

Ayon has experience working with high school students and is now working with middle school students. She said working with middle school students is very different since they are younger, are much more impressionable, and are therefore influenced easier. This is good because they are more willing to try the skills she is teaching them.

“Helping students is very rewarding and if I can truly help even just one, then it is all worth it,” said Ayon. “After helping a student I always feel hopeful. Hopeful that they learned something new, that they know how valid their feelings are, or even that they will come back when there is something they need help with. It’s also so much fun! I get to use a lot of games and fun interventions with my students.”

Since the pandemic, she has definitely seen an increase in students experiencing anxiety. Even if students are not specifically using the word, the symptoms they are expressing are those of anxiety.

Ayon said she has also noticed a big decrease in social skills. The students that went from elementary to middle school or from middle school to high school are having a more difficult time interacting with their peers. Students missed out on important years where they would’ve been developing those skills but were instead placed in a new school environment completely different from the previous.

“I would say one of the biggest ways I help students is by listening. Actually listening to what they are saying and reminding them they are allowed to feel that way! Not judging them or telling them what they should or should not do, that is a part of being a safe adult and creating a space where they feel comfortable sharing about what is bothering them,” said Ayon. “If students feel judged or like they are getting in trouble then they are not going to want to come back, plus, their problems are very real and it is important that we acknowledge that. Social workers are lifelong learners!”

As a school social worker, Ayon provides mental health support to her students and their families in whatever capacity they need at the time.

“School social work is such an amazing field because we can provide so many different services to students, families, and staff,” said Ayon. “I also provide linkage to community resources and to outside mental health providers if necessary. The biggest part of my role on a school campus is just being a safe adult that my students feel comfortable coming to in the event that they need somebody. Which is why it is important to remember that we never know what is going on in someone else’s home and that every behavior is a form of communication.”