Joanne Kerbs Caramanica
Joanne Kerbs Caramanica had been working with foster children in Prince William County, Virginia, in the early 1980s, when she enrolled in Virginia Commonwealth University’s new Master of Social Work program. Drawn to the field since she was a child, it was a natural next step. After graduating in 1985 and earning her clinician license, Caramanica began a 23-year career with the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board as a mental health therapist, providing services for children and adolescents. She retired in 2008.
In 2017, Caramanica established the Joanne Kerbs Caramanica Scholarship to help future generations of social workers. The scholarship is for M.S.W. students who plan to focus on children, adolescents and families in a clinical setting.
“I have worked with youth and families throughout my career and have witnessed the impact social workers can have,” says Caramanica. “In many cases, I have changed their lives, and they’ve changed mine.”
As passionate as she is about the profession, Caramanica knows that there’s more money in many other fields. She hopes her scholarship helps VCU students follow their dreams rather than choose a more lucrative career because they’re worried about student debt. “Like any helping profession, social work is a calling,” says Caramanica. “First, you have to have the heart and the drive to spend your professional life helping people. If a student thinks they have that but is not sure they would be able to pursue it for financial reasons, I want them to know that there are options for assistance.”
Caramanica is happy that she can make a difference in the lives of M.S.W. students and urges them to be courageous. “Speak up and speak out,” she says. “In clinical work, you have to speak not just with your knowledge but with your instincts, too. Assert yourself and always be an advocate.”