A typical week for Margie Toves during graduate school went something like this: attend classes at the School of Social Work, work as a graduate assistant, go to Seven Hills Hospital to fulfill practicum hours twice a week. On the weekend, return to the behavioral health treatment center to work as a case manager — a job she was offered while completing her practicum hours.
It’s a tough juggling act but was made easier this year thanks to a grant aimed at training more people like Toves to address our community’s need for social workers and mental health professionals. When she crosses the commencement stage May 14, she’ll be one of first of 35 grant recipients to graduate with her Master of Social Work.
Toves already is helping children and adults cope with myriad challenges, including the effects of abuse, neglect, and sexual violence. “I see a lot of adults who are homeless and have really serious mental illnesses, and they aren’t able to get the necessary services they need because they don’t have a place to stay, among other factors,” said Toves, 25. “I see adolescents who are experiencing trauma. They are not able to handle or cope with many adversities in their lives — whether their parents are divorcing or they are being picked on in school. No client is the same. They all have their own story.”
Toves looks forward to Saturdays, when she completes the paperwork for patients to leave the treatment center. “I get to see them in their happiest part of their day,” Toves said.
The School of Social Work’s master's program received a grant in 2015 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to create a pipeline of social workers. The school expanded its clinical social work education program and is providing funds to help students like Toves pursue the master’s degree needed to fill in-demand mental health positions.
Toves was among a select group of social work students to receive $10,000 each. It helped her offset the cost of books and tuition and set aside funds to obtain her social work license. She has maintained a 3.95 GPA while balancing several on-campus activities with jobs both on-campus and off.
A first-generation college student, Toves says she didn’t think she’d make it this far academically but she’s excited to keep going further.
“I knew what I wanted to do in high school. I knew I wanted to do therapy and help people in some sort of way — and I knew a lot of schooling was involved.” Now, she said, “I found my calling.”
Toves’ parents divorced when she was 10 and it wasn’t an easy transition. Her parents sought counseling for their only child — which she credits for spurring her interest in wanting to make things better for others. It was after this experience that Toves knew she wanted to help others who were experiencing similar situations.
“The adolescents I see now — they need somebody to listen to them, be there for them, and tell them, ‘It’s OK. You’re going through this, but you can make it through,’” Toves said. “We’re here to help you.”
Toves relocated from Guam to attend Nevada State College as an undergraduate where she was awarded a bachelor of arts in psychology. After graduation, she plans to continue working at Seven Hills Hospital. She will pursue clinical hours required to obtain her license as a clinical social worker.
As a graduate student, Toves volunteered as a CARE advocate for the UNLV Jean Nidetch Women’s Center. She presented sexual assault prevention and bystander intervention strategies in freshman seminar classes, provided support for victims and survivors of interpersonal violence, received training in suicide prevention, assisted veterans attending UNLV, and facilitated presentations on campus.
“The CARE advocate practicum experience was about making change and empowering survivors,” Toves said.
The experienced helped Toves become more culturally aware of gender identity and sexual orientation, she said. At Seven Hills Hospital, Toves sees patients who identify as being part of the LBGTQ community – some of whom who are experiencing trauma due to sexual assault and bullying.
“I think that being a CARE advocate helped me become culturally aware. I’m able to use my CARE advocate hat, empathize, and empower patients in their treatment,” Toves said.