Social worker Tiffanie Keliinui-McCreadie has an important job: she gets through to teens with behavioral and emotional disabilities.
“A lot of teens I work with in my residential youth home may push adults away,” she said.
“They may behave as if they don’t want to be around people, but they crave love, attention and care, and they want someone to hear their stories.
“If people are willing to listen, they see that this population of kids has the ability to connect.”
Most of her young clients are in foster care today, but they will soon be adults and working citizens in our community.
Keliinui-McCreadie, a second-year master’s degree candidate at the UH Mānoa Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work, explained that the more effort we put into helping these young people now, the more we all benefit when they become adults.
“They come in with low self-worth and low self-confidence,” she said, “but we try to teach them how to express their feelings, to negotiate with us and with each other, and to speak up for themselves.”
Keliinui-McCreadie has worked for Catholic Charities for eight years. She hopes to open her own community-based residential home someday to provide a therapeutic environment that supports young people’s needs in making the transition to adulthood. A graduate degree can help make this happen, but her full-time work directing the youth home doesn’t cover her tuition and expenses.
Fortunately she is the first-ever recipient of the Ethel Yamane Endowed Scholarship. “I’m taking out loans for this degree, and I’m a mom, so this helps a lot,” she said.
“I’ve also gained a lot of confidence from this scholarship. Someone read what I wrote in the application and believed in me. It feels like an affirmation that I’m on the right track and will do something important with my degree.”
Ethel Yamane understands the value of scholarships first-hand: she received them throughout her education, beginning in high school at Mid-Pacific Institute and continuing through her undergraduate and graduate studies at UH Mānoa. This laid the foundation for a rewarding 40-year career in social work.
Yamane began advocating for Hawai‘i’s children in 1950. She worked for the Hawai‘I Department of Public Welfare (now Human Services) and Department of Health in positions related to child welfare, foster homes, and deinstitutionalizing developmentally challenged children.
Yamane wanted to give other social work students opportunities like she had. Her scholarship does just that, and continues her legacy of serving our community by helping students like Keliinui-McCreadie learn how to better serve the less fortunate.
“I’ve never studied as part of a cohort before,” said Keliinui-McCreadie, who is gaining new experience even as an experienced social worker.
“Now I’m with people who are striving for the same goal, working toward caring for the community, and hoping to make it better.”