Celebrated annually in March, National Professional Social Work Month is an opportunity to shine a light on the profession and recognize the important and significant contributions social workers make on society. Today we’ll highlight Master of Social Work alumna, Cecelia Ballesteros, who continues to positively impact young lives through her work at Fresno Unified School District.

Cecelia Ballesteros, an academic counselor at Sequoia Middle School, recently received the  Administrator of the Year Award by Fresno Unified School District at their Excellence in Education Awards Banquet. Ballesteros, an alumna of Fresno State, received her Masters of Social Work degree in 2014. She has worked for FUSD since 2004, and with Sequoia Middle School for the past five years.

Cecelia Ballesteros. Photo Credit: FUSD

At Sequoia, the number of students who earned a D or F decreased from four years ago when it was 60%, to just over 30% this academic year. In addition, only 10% of all Sequoia students failed to earn at least a 2.0 GPA in the 2014-15 school year. Administrators at Sequoia credit Ballesteros’ bold efforts to these vast improvements in students’ grades.

“I’m from this neighborhood, and someone did it for me,” Ballesteros said in a statement to FUSD. “I want to be that opportunity for students and create opportunities that make the difference.”

Ballesteros was able to make all this happen by utilizing her strong desire to connect community volunteers and peer counselors from Roosevelt High School with more than 300 Sequoia students to talk about grades and goals at least three times a year. In relation to this, she also started a system that brings parents to school three times a year to meet with teachers about their student’s progress.

FUSD Excellence in Education Award recipients. Photo Credit: FUSD

She also implemented a curriculum for teachers so that students could learn in class about graduation requirements, colleges and college course requirements. Students would also have the opportunity to explore careers and what are skills are required for those careers.

“Cecelia believes in changing the trajectory of her students’ futures,” said Yolanda Juarez, vice principal at Sequoia.

Ballesteros, the daughter of Peruvian immigrants, was advised to attend beauty college while she was in high school. However, her counselors encouraged her to pursue her education and as a result, Ballesteros went on to attend U.C. Santa Cruz, where she received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 1996. In 2012, she continued her education at Fresno State, later earning her Master’s degree.

Great work, Cecelia! It’s wonderful to see our alumni impacting young minds and making a difference in the education field.

[All information and photos are courtesy of Fresno Unified School District]