Advocacy at work: the story of Social Work alum Alyssa Gaggino
When Alyssa Gaggino decided to go back to school for a graduate degree at age 47 she had a hard time determining what exactly she wanted to do. A seasoned Warrior alum, Alyssa graduated with her bachelor’s in communications from Wayne State in 1982, and went on to work a variety of jobs in multiple fields, but one thing was missing - the feeling of helping others through her profession. After becoming more interested in social justice during her career and stopping by the School of Social Work to talk to faculty and staff, Alyssa decided that the Wayne State University School of Social Work was the right place for her. She applied and enrolled in the MSW program with a macro concentration in innovation in community, policy and leadership (I-CPL) one month later.
Now Alyssa works as a care coordinator working with seniors and disabled individuals on Medicaid and Medicare at a company that supports residents in Wayne and Macomb county. When Alyssa found out that nurses doing the same job were making $15,000 to $20,000 more than social workers, Alyssa took action. Alyssa ultimately contacted the president of her company who pointed her in the direction of someone who could help. Alyssa was recently rewarded for her efforts with pay equity. Ultimately, her advocacy work helped create change resulting in increased salaries for 15 other social workers in her department.
Focused on three platforms of practice including developing and sustaining effective communities, policies, and organizations through leadership, Alyssa learned to apply classroom knowledge in community situations as an I-CPL student. Had it not been for the School, Alyssa doesn’t know if she’d be as outspoken as she is today.
I’m not afraid to stand up for myself and fight for what I believe in. The School of Social Work taught me how to become an advocate for others and myself and I’m proud that when I saw an injustice I did not stay silent.
Alyssa continues to enjoy the benefits of her MSW degree. “Regardless of the economic climate – good or bad – I have always been able to find a job in social work and I’m grateful for that,” stated Alyssa. “I live by the credo of lifelong learning and every day I work to become a better social worker. I want to make each day count before I retire in a few years.”
My advice to students is that if you see an injustice, stop complaining and do something about it. Don’t waste your time being a victim when you can take action to try to better a situation.