Social work beckons student

It seemed it had always been her calling to help others, said Jessica Otto a junior at Northern Kentucky University. “I remember when I was younger I felt the need to help others,” Otto said. For Otto, a social work major, her drive to show love and support of people who are not as fortunate as her began when she was in the eighth grade and had to do 60 hours of community service, she said.

Her work did not stop after those 60 hours, for Otto it had only just begun. Upon entering high school, she looked for opportunities to provide services to others.

During these time Otto realized that she really enjoyed social work. “I felt a sense of worth when working with people who did not get the basic needs of life, (or) TLC (tender loving care),” she said.

At the end of her senior year Otto was offered the chance to further her knowledge in social work when her guidance counselor announced a full-time summer job at the Women’s Crisis Center, a shelter for women and children who are victims of abuse.

Otto said she sent in her resume, went to the interview, and started work soon after.

“At first it was a little strange,” Otto said. “I was not aware of what went on in our society. Here I am, a sheltered high school graduate, and I am working with women who have cuts and bruises all over their bodies.”

But the cold splash of reality did not turn Otto away from doing a duty for her fellow neighbors, Otto said. “After working there and getting used to the cliental, I loved it,” she said.

One requirement of her job included answering the crisis hotline. This is a service that offers women, who have been raped, sexually assaulted or abused a chance to vent their frustrations and fears to someone who cares.

“They just need someone to listen to, to be there on the phone,” she said. “They just need someone who cares.”

With her summer foray into social work over, Otto realized that she had found something she enjoyed. “I wanted to continue my experience in my social work field,” she said.

Otto declared her major as social work without a doubt in her mind, she said.

“Experience is what social workers need,” Otto said.

Without her experience Otto said the Diocesan Catholic Children’s Home would not have hired her.

In the beginning, it was even harder than the Women’s Crisis Center, Otto said because she was dealing with children, who at such young ages, felt pain and anger instead of joy. At the home, Otto said they try to instill therapeutic skills and teach daily routines to the children. “Things like getting along with others, having good hygiene, and learning to trust and respect others,” she said.

They’ve never been in an environment where they can grow,” Otto said. “This is a chance for them to release their anger and loneliness.”

The children’s anger can sometimes make the job difficult, Otto said. “Sometimes they get out of control, take their anger out on the staff, the other children,” she said. Because of this Otto said she is certified to restrain them.

“It’s always been my nature to care for people,” Otto said. “I do this because I want to, the money no there, but that’s not why I do it,” Otto said.

The reason she does it, “I get hugs like 5000 times a day,” she said. “And that’s great.”