In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8th, we are profiling the women of Plummer Youth Promise this month. We are lucky to have a team full of extraordinary women who inspire us. Today, we want to introduce you to Johanna Rodriguez, a Permanency Social Worker for our residential programs here on Winter Island.
Johanna has always understood the importance of family and support networks. Shortly after she turned 13, Johanna moved from the Dominican Republic to the United States to live with her aunts. Though she visited the Dominican Republic often, Johanna navigated learning English and living with relatives far from home throughout high school.
She tells us that two female mentors during this time had a life-changing impact. One was with a Salem State student, Kelly Quinn, who helped Johanna learn English in an after-school program in Salem. When Quinn told her she was studying social work, Johanna was hooked. “From there, I was like, ‘I’m going to school for social work. That’s just what I’m going to do.’” Another woman who had a huge impact on Johanna during high school was Linda Saris of LEAP for Education. “Without her and her staff, I probably wouldn’t have had access to scholarships, or even known about scholarships,” she says of Saris. Johanna earned scholarships to community college, undergraduate school, and finally to Salem State’s MSW program – all while working full time.
Last summer, Johanna’s former teacher and Plummer Clinical Director, Christina Brackett, told her she should apply to be a Permanency Social Worker here. Johanna is now a vital part of our mission. “My main job is creating that connection between families… I do that intensive work,” she says. “If you’re in the middle of the road and your car breaks down, do you have someone who can come help you? That’s what I think about.”
Johanna works with the families of the residents here so that each young person has someone they can count on. At Plummer, every relationship a young person builds with a caring adult or family member is important, whether it leads to a placement or not.
But, she tells us, helping a young person find a forever home is especially rewarding. She told us about a young man in our group home who, at the time of intake, was only able to visit his grandmother a handful of times each year because of lack of transportation. Johanna knows that, at Plummer, we do whatever it takes to support and rebuild families. “We make family visits a priority. We make sure that transportation is not a barrier to seeing the kid.” Now, Johanna says, he has overnight visits with his grandma every weekend and she is in the process of becoming his full-time foster parent.
For Johanna, this work hits close to home. Her family support network has been so important, especially as she raises her 3 year-old daughter. She knows she can count on her aunts and grandparents to pitch in whenever she needs help. “It’s really important to have family,” she says. That’s something we all can agree on here at Plummer.