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“The real recognition for me is that the students want to include me in their personal lives.”
Although Ivelisse Peters has only been with Dalton Public Schools for a year-and-a-half, she has already made a huge impact. Peters was chosen as the School Social Workers Association of Georgia's School Social Worker of the Year for the Northwest Georgia Region and will be in contention for the state recognition.
In her fifth year as a school social worker, Peters began working at Dalton High School at the start of the 2016-17 school year after moving from her job in Hall County Schools. She was shocked to see her name on the list of winners because she still feels so new at her job. "It was overwhelming, surprising, humbling; I didn't know how to react," she said. "I wasn't even sure I qualified!"
Lead Social Worker Jackie Taylor said that the minute she and DHS Principal Steve Bartoo met Peters, they knew she would be a great asset. "Ivelisse is incredibly energetic and compassionate. She is a true advocate for her students and absolutely personifies the Dalton Difference," she said. "Her willingness to go above, beyond and around for her students is unmatched."
During her time at DHS, she has developed relationships with many students and has taken them to tour facilities around the state that could further their education or career training. She brought new ideas to the table, like her goal to further develop service learning programs to help students learn about community service.
To Peters, a good social worker is compassionate, real, honest, and considers another's life experiences with an open mind. She tries to exemplify that philosophy by making sure her students feel important, because they are. "A lot of times young people get dismissed or not taken seriously; it's so important to validate them," she said. "Young people should be at the table, and their ideas should be heard. Because really, this is about them."
Peters said that DHS and the community as a whole does a great job of connecting with students. "This community is very supportive of the social worker role. We are all about the kids and doing whatever it takes to support them," she said.
People in the community always make it a point to tell Jackie Taylor what a pleasure it is to work with Peters. "She makes us all look good!" said Taylor.
Peters said the beauty of working at just one school, instead of the five schools she supported at her previous job, is getting to know the students and their families on a personal level. "There was one girl I took and picked up from school every day last year. Others come sit in my office or text me just to talk, sometimes at all hours of the night," she said. "I've had teen parents invite me to their children's birthday parties."
"The real recognition for me is that the students want to include me in their personal lives."The state winner will be announced at the School Social Workers Association of Georgia conference in the spring.