Heather Friedrich, MSW

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Heather grew up in Del Norte County as did her parents, grandparents, and some of her great grandparents. She is the first in her family to graduate from college. Initially, Heather was unsure of what she wanted to do as a career and had little to no knowledge about social work. She decided to major in sociology after taking one class and discovering how fascinated she was by human behavior. While she enjoyed her sociology classes, finding a job in the field did not seem too practical, especially since she had very little work experience. Shortly before Heather graduated with her bachelor’s degree, she saw a flyer for the CalSWEC program and subsequently attended an informational meeting. It was then explained to her that in social work, she could apply the theories and concepts she had learned in sociology at the individual level. The emphasis on working with the Native American population was also of interest to her as she is a member of the Smith River Rancheria and had always been interested in working with the Native American community.

Heather completed her foundation year internship at a non-profit foster family agency, Environmental Alternatives. There was an office in Crescent City and Eureka and she spent time interning at both. Over the summer, the agency hired her as a social worker, but she had to quit in order to finish her second year in the MSW program, a necessary step in order to complete her hours at Humboldt County Child Welfare.

“Both internships were very positive experiences in that they provided me with the hands on experience I needed to help prepare me for my career,” explains Heather.

While in the graduate program, Heather also earned a minor in American Indian Education.  She graduated with her MSW in May of 2010. The Monday after graduation, she started working for Del Norte County Child Welfare and has continued to work there for the past four years.

“Although the work is not easy, I have good support systems in both my personal life and at work. Del Norte County Child Welfare has a great sense of camaraderie amongst the workers. The supervisors are experienced and supportive, which are attributes of a work environment that I believe are necessary for longevity. Working in the county where I grew up has its challenges. I feel great satisfaction knowing that I am working to improve my community and hometown. However, juggling dual relationships can be difficult at times.”

Heather is married to a Humboldt alum who works for the National Park Services. They share a one year old son. Right now Heather considers herself content with both her career and personal life. She is continually learning from her clients, her co-workers, and herself. She is fortunate to have been asked to provide on site supervision for a few of her co-workers who are furthering their education through Humboldt State University’s Distributed Learning Program. Heather has also sat on the interviewing board for the CalSWEC stipend for the past two years.

“One day, when I have more field experience, I may try to pursue social change on a larger scale, but for right now I am focusing on being happy with where I am at this point in my life.  I am grateful for the opportunity to attend the MSW Program at Humboldt.  It gave me a solid foundation for my career as a child welfare social worker in a rural community. Values such as self-determination and a strength-based approach have not only helped with the work I do, but I feel the perspectives have also contributed to my own personal growth and have helped me to become more of the type of person I want to be in life.”