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The last few weeks of the San Diego People Project have taken us through an interesting group of family and friends. Fish specialist Ron Soucy led me to his best pal, Barry Lambert, who led me to his daughter, Sarai Anguiano, who suggested this week’s subject: her aunt (and Barry’s sister) Summer Steele.

Steele is a school social worker in East County. She admitted she was a bit reticent to have the chat, given the sensitive nature of her work. But, she said, she was honored that her niece Sarai would think of her for the project.

So we sat down and talked about dealing with kids, both others’ and her own. After the interview, we chatted while her two-year-old son Jules played with his toys (and tried to get me to play with them too).

Name: Summer Steele

Age: 34

Occupation: School social worker

Part of town: La Mesa

So, you’re a school social worker — how long have you been doing that?

Since 2001. Fall of 2001.

And how did you get into it?

I was graduating that year with my master’s in social work and it just so happened that was the year that East County experienced a few school shootings. So, the district had been hiring. I applied and ended up at one of those schools.

So you had those first days on the job in the wake of those shootings?

Right after. Approximately six months.

That seems like a challenging atmosphere to be starting your first job in the field.

Definitely. But I also worked with somebody who was very, very seasoned, so that was always really helpful. He was a school psychologist and an MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist), so it was really nice to be partnered up with somebody who had years and years of experience.

Can you tell me about the atmosphere.

Certainly there was a need for support services. I think any school has a need for support services. (At this point, Steele’s 2-year-old son chimes in: Mom, my foot fits in your pocket.)

Sorry.

That’s alright.

It seems like it would be a challenge to respond to a crisis like that, but it seems like it would be a challenge to do your job every day.

I think so. But I love my job. I mean, you get to invest in kids’ lives. And you figure out real quickly that you’re there to do it and not know what the impact is. Sometimes you hear back from kids and that’s really cool, and it’s what keeps you going. But it’s really an awesome job. There’s no better job. At least for me.

And so now you have one of your own.

Yeah!

Do you feel better prepared than others might be?

Oh, I don’t know. Certainly you’ve done training and done schooling that makes you look at the whole child development through the aging process. So there’s knowledge, but doing it is certainly different.

There are some things that come in handy, but I think a lot of it is just having patience. It’s not always about a book. It’s just loving your child through all the difficult things.

My boss, Scott Lewis, just had his first child today. What advice do you have for him?

Roll with it.

Just take it as it comes. It’s a beautiful process — the development of your child. It’s really cool.

I was thinking today about how, when he was six months, I put him in a carrier and I would take the trashcans up — both trashcans, one in each hand — and he would be in the pouch. And today, he carried the trashcan up by himself. And I thought, wow, he’s really growing up. And that’s amazing.

— Interview conducted and edited by SAM HODGSON

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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