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Alumni Spotlight: Erin Ortiz (’06)

January 4, 2018 / Catherine Nicholas / Blog

Erin Ortiz (’06) graduated from the University of Virginia in three years with a degree in psychology. She then attended Gallaudet University, where she pursued a master’s in social work, specializing in school social work and disability. After receiving her master’s, Erin taught in VCU’s social work program before accepting a position with the non-profit CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).

At CASA, Erin’s job involved preparing case reports and managing volunteer advocates who handled cases dealing with child abuse and neglect. Erin also trained volunteers, which led to her transition into the position as volunteer coordinator.

In 2015, she accepted her current position as a school social worker in Henrico County Public Schools. She provides services at her assigned schools including counseling, assessment, consultation to school personnel, parent outreach and education, enforcement of compulsory attendance, and coordination of community services on behalf of students.

What’s the best part of the job? “Making a difference in a kid’s life,” Erin says. “I’ve seen families come out of dire situations. When you have a family that’s been living in a motel for four months, and you can connect them with social services that get them into housing, that isn’t just putting a fire out. That’s seeing a change.” She also cherishes her relationships with kids. “I’m in and out of people’s homes, and I love that when I go to find my kids, they’re so happy to see me.”

The hardest part? “Knowing what the right answer is but not having a way to get to A to B. It’s not the paperwork or having the fly by the seat of my pants. It’s knowing the answer, and knowing what I can do to make that happen is limited.

In addition to her usual job duties, Erin is looking forward to running a group designed to develop coping skills and strategies in children whose poor school attendance is connected to anxiety. “Despite the chaos all around us, we still aim to do good work,” she says. “And we’re gonna do it.”

This profile originally appeared in our 2016-17 annual report.

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