GOSO is able to reach hundreds of justice-involved young men each year because we have a strong team of dedicated and passionate individuals who show up each day, ready to hit the ground running. All of our team members bring unique talents and perspectives to our organization, and our work wouldn’t be possible without each person’s contributions.
This week, we’re introducing you to Veronica Echeverri, who is one of our licensed social workers at GOSO, or as we call them, Career Managers. Veronica (Roni for short!) joined our team almost four months ago. As a Career Manager, Roni works closely with our participants to ensure they have the resources they need to pursue their education and employment, and improve emotional well-being.
Read our interview with her below:
Why did you decide to work at GOSO?
Ever since high school I’ve always wanted to work with people who have been involved in the criminal justice system. I actually wanted to be a lawyer, but when I got to college, I got hooked on social work. I started talking to people like my Residential Advisor who was a social work major, and I started gaining certain interests particularly in adolescents and young adults. When I was looking for jobs, I came across GOSO and I thought it was perfect — I was actually interested in everything that the role of Career Manager entailed! Now as a full-time staff member, I get to work with people who are like people I grew up with. I am able to help them overcome struggles and obstacles they face. I love working with other people of color because I feel it’s important to implement a social-emotional learning path, and to teach them how to overcome internalized and systematic oppression.
What professional and/or personal experiences influence the work you do at GOSO?
I grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens and I saw a lot of my friends decide to make poor choices and fall into a cycle of hustling and selling drugs and getting involved in gangs. This put them in a cycle of people of color being continually oppressed in their communities. I always wanted to help them get out of these patterns. I don’t blame anyone for the decisions that they make, but more the environmental factors that influence the decisions. The cycle of having no self-determination because of poverty, racism, and other factors. When I work with participants here, I always push them because I know they can be better versions of themselves and always be more of the person they want to be. Even when they have trouble getting up in the morning and coming to workshops, I am calling them and telling them to come in and that goes a long way in making someone feel supported and eventually become self-motivating.
Can you share a story of a meaningful moment you had while working at GOSO?
I feel the most meaningful moment I had was helping one of my participants in therapy. I saw them realize that they are capable of achieving their goals without overwhelming themselves or letting themselves become their own worst enemy.
Why are you passionate about the work that GOSO does?
I love helping people become successful in all their personal, professional, and social endeavors. It’s great to see our participants landing a job or creating a resume for the first time. I like helping them find what they are actually interested in doing in their lives, and then from there, helping them get to that point.
Why should everyone care about the work that GOSO does?
There aren’t many reentry programs as unique as this one. We are constantly growing with what our participants’ wants and needs are. By listening to the needs of our participants, we develop into a better organization and address the skills that they are truly interested in developing while they’re here. It’s a very intimate, personal, family setting and that’s why a lot of our guys come back.
What is the most important personal attribute that you bring to your job?
My passion. I feel like I bring passion because no matter what, I know I won’t give up on someone or get fed up with what I’m doing. And if I don’t know the answer I’m going to find the answer because I’m not going to stop helping somebody just because it becomes difficult or challenging.
What is a GOSO program or workshop you’d create if you could?
I got to create a new group here that’s called “Growing and Glowing.” The purpose of the group is to connect men of color to help them understand how mental health affects their communities, environment, and well-being. In this group, the hope is to de-stigmatize the idea of mental health, making it more approachable in attempt to connect it with individual, familial, and community values and beliefs.
What’s a piece of advice that you’d want to pass on to participants?
See your goal, Understand the obstacles, Create a positive mental picture, Clear your mind of self doubt, Embrace the challenge, Stay on track, Show the world you can do it! (SUCCESS). I keep a poster of this mantra in my office and all of the participants take photos of it to remind them!