Spotlight on our Social Workers

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For Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to acknowledge the Social Workers we have on staff at ICAN. They work directly with clients and they lead their teams each day as ICAN services over 1,600 families (4,500+ individuals). 

Please take a few minutes to get to know them better and join us in thanking them for all of their dedicated work in Keeping Families Together.

BRI FOR WEB 300

Briana Anderson

• Le Moyne College, Bachelor of Arts (Psychology)
• University at Buffalo, Master of Social Work
• 3 years in Social Work

Why did you choose to become a social worker?
From the time I was little, I knew I wanted a career in working with children and in helping people. My mind changed a few times from wanting to be a Child Life Specialist and a child clinical psychologist to ultimately deciding that social work was more for me. I faced some adversities growing up that shaped me into the person I am, and I decided that I wanted to help people struggling in their own darkest hours. As a child or adolescent, having even just one positive adult in your life that you can talk to, feel safe with, and trust is one of the greatest predictors for healing and positive outcomes. My goal has always been to be that safe adult for the children, adolescents, and families that I work with. In a world where hate, poverty, oppression, discrimination, hate crimes, and inequality exists so prevalently, social workers become the first line of defense, both clinically and on a more systemic level fighting for change. 

What do you like best about your work?
The best part about my job is meeting children and families where they're at to provide them with the skills they need to be successful and showing them that most of what they need to be successful is already right inside of them. Seeing the look on a caregiver's face when their child finally gets it, watching a child's self-esteem grow as the skills sink in, and knowing I left a family even just a little better than I found them makes each difficult day worth every second.

Personal mantra you use often with yourself and/or with those you work with:
"Give yourself your best chance.”

Special interests or hobbies:
I love to cook and bake, do yoga, hike mountains, spend time with loved ones, and read for fun!

CARRIE FOR WEB 300 

Carrie Conte, LCSW

• SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Bachelors of Science, Sociology major with a concentration in Criminology
• University of Albany, Masters of Social Work
• In the Social Work field nearly 20 years

Why did you choose to become a social worker?
I have always been one of those people who is crazy enough to believe that I can change the world.  I still believe it! 

What do you like best about your work?
I like helping people to identify their strengths by motivating and empowering them.  I think when people still have some hope left, and sometimes it's the only thing they have left, it means they still have some fire left inside of them.  I knew someone who was going through a pretty tough time and they said "Hope is the last thing I've got."  Someone very close to them said "You are just doing the 'hopium' shuffle." Accusing them of being irrationally optimistic.  I believe that having hope puts you in a positive mindset which can only yield positive results.  I never want anyone to feel that being optimistic is irrational or unwarranted, I like to foster hope in others.

Personal mantra you use often with yourself and/or with those you work with:
"There is much more to a person than the worst thing they have ever done.”

Special interests or hobbies:
My brain works in song lyrics; I still love Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; I am a huge SU basketball fan.

KEVIN FOR WEB 300

Kevin Colacicco

• Mohawk Valley Community College, Human Services 
• Syracuse University, Bachelors in Social Work 
• University of Albany, Masters in Social Welfare
• 13 years in Social Work

Why did you choose to become a social worker?
I became a social worker so I could become a psychotherapist. Therapy helped me out so much when I was younger that I thought "Wow, what a wonderful way to spend my time helping others attain their dreams!”

What do you like best about your work?
I love guiding people into realizing that everything they need is already inside of themselves. It's a gift to see a client manifest their dreams.

Personal mantra you use often with yourself and/or with those you work with:
For me and if my clients want this, I focus on having inner peace.

Special interests or hobbies:
Avid comic book collector and semi-pro underwater basket weaver 

ALICIA CROUSE FOR WEB 300

Alicia Crouse

• SUNY Albany, Bachelors in Psychology and Masters in Social Work
• 10 years in the field and 3 years as an MSW

Why did you choose to become a social worker?
For social justice and to help people. 

What do you like best about your work?
I like that it's aligned with my values and it's purposeful.

Personal mantra you use often with yourself and/or with those you work with:
We're all a work in progress.

Special interests or hobbies:
Astrology, music and concerts, poetry and the New York Rangers.

 KAYLA FOR WEB 300

Kayla Hajdasz

• Keuka College, Bachelors in Social Work 
• Fordham University, Masters in Social Work 
• Two years in Social Work

Why did you choose to become a social worker?
I knew that I wanted to be a social worker when I was in elementary school. After being in the foster care system for three years and struggling with abuse, I finally received guidance from my high school social worker. She guided me out of a bad situation. I can honestly say that she made my journey alot easier. That solidified me wanting to become a social worker, I wanted to be able to help change lives.

What do you like best about your work?
I like being able to form relationships and bonds with not only the children in the STARRS program but their families as well.

Personal mantra you use often with yourself and/or with those you work with:
"You've got this”

Special interests or hobbies:
I like to cook, bake and try new things (i.e hiking, zip lining)

ALICIA FOR WEB 300  

Alicia Jewell 

• Utica College, Bachelors in Child Life Psychology 
• University of Albany, Masters in Social Work
• 7 years working in the field, 4 years as a Social Worker

Why did you choose to become a social worker?
When I was younger my older sister was working in the field and I always admired her passion for helping others and the work she was doing to help children and families. 

What do you like best about your work?
I love building a relationship with the students I work with and being considered one of their strong staff that they feel comfortable expressing themselves too. It is amazing to watch how much a child will open up when they feel safe and also while having fun playing games like The Game of Life. 

Personal mantra you use often with yourself and/or with those you work with:
Never regret a day in your life. Good days give you happiness and bad days give you experience. 

Special interests or hobbies:
I love interior design and some say I have a good eye for being able to look at a space and I instantly rambling off ideas on how to make the most of the space in front of me.

DENISE FOR WEB 300 

Denise Laribee 

• SUNY Polytechnic Institute - Bachelors in Psychology
• SUNY Albany - Master’s in Social Work
• 10 years in Social Work

Why did you choose to become a social worker?
I could no longer work as a nurse, but wanted to continue to help people

What do you like best about your work?
Meeting new people, learning of their struggles and their victories and helping them 

Personal mantra you use often with yourself and/or with those you work with:
Remember to treat each person as a person and not a diagnosis

Special interests or hobbies:
I love to hike and go camping 

LAUREN FOR WEB 300 

Lauren Mastrangelo

• Utica College, Bachelors in Psychology
• Syracuse University, Masters in Social Work
• 15 years in Social Work

Why did you choose to become a social worker?
For the longest time I thought I was going to be a teacher, then in high school I became interested in psychology. When it came time to think about graduate school I liked that social work was strengths based and has enough flexibility to combine both my interest in the human experience as well as teaching.

What do you like best about your work?
I love that I get to work with an amazing team of people who support one another and laugh on a daily basis. I love that I get to work with some amazing young people and because we often work with them over several years, I get to see as they grow and make progress.

Personal mantra you use often with yourself and/or with those you work with:
When you are worried about what lies ahead remember how far you've already come.

Special interests or hobbies:
I enjoy traveling, cooking and tying new and interesting restaurants. I have been learning to speak French. I love anything involving animals and over this past year have developed a deeper appreciation for jigsaw puzzles and spending time in nature, though not at the same time.

BECCA FOR WEB 300 

Rebecca Paladino

• SUNY Cortland, Bachelor in Sociology
• SUNY Albany, Masters in Social Work
• 9 years in Social Work

Why did you choose to become a social worker?
I became a social worker because there is such a wide variety of opportunities in this field to make a difference. I've always been interested in feelings, behavior, and overall mental health. 

What do you like best about your work?
I know that people's lives change when they are empowered, and find the work of helping them get there is rewarding.

Personal mantra you use often with yourself and/or with those you work with:
Yes, I think it’s easy to point out flaws and negativity, but remind myself and others to be the change you wish to see in the world. How wonderful it is that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. 

Special interests or hobbies:
My favorite thing in the world is being a mom and being with my family! Being outdoors, at the lake or at the beach is where I want to be. I don't have any cool talents, but skiing is definitely my favorite hobby!

JESSENIA FOR WEB 300 

Jesenia Wright

• Case Western Reserve University, Masters in Social Work
• Over 10 years in Human Services field and two post MSW

Why did you choose to become a social worker?
I decided to become a social worker due to my personal experiences with social workers as a child. I knew that one day I wanted to be that positive force to help families and children be the best version of themselves.

What do you like best about your work?
I love being able to guide and empower the families we serve and the coordinators on my team.

Personal mantra you use often with yourself and/or with those you work with:
"You cannot pour from an empty cup."

Special interests or hobbies:
A couple years ago I started a clothing closet called Givings Closet. It's a donation closet where I collect gently used items such as clothing, children toys, etc and donate them to people in need.