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‘Always there’ | Fairfax woman honored as public school’s social worker of the year

“Claudia is not just a phenomenal social worker, but she is an outstanding leader and champion for students and families in Title I schools," her principal said.

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — A woman working in a Fairfax County elementary school has been acknowledged as the national social worker of the year. Claudia McDowell, a school social worker at Lynbrook Elementary School, was given the honor by the School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA).

McDowell has spent 10 years so far working at Lynbrook, a Title 1 school in which children from low-income families make up at least 40% of enrollment, according to the U.S. Department of Education. 

“Claudia has worked tirelessly with our families who experience any type of basic need and has helped them access immediate support while she works collaboratively with the family and community resources to find long-term supportive solutions,” Lynbrook Elementary Principal Kathleen Sain said in a statement on the district’s website.“Always there to help in a moment of need, she has had many times where on her way home from work or in the early evening she has dropped off supplemental food gift cards to families that have an immediate food or formula need.”

McDowell has also worked to help counter the “chronic absenteeism” during the pandemic by providing individualized support for students, which helps foster their sense of belonging, confidence and engagement in school, according to the district. 

“Claudia is not just a phenomenal social worker, but she is an outstanding leader and champion for students and families in Title I schools,” Sain said. “She is an incredible employee who positively impacts the lives of all the students and staff she supports here at Lynbrook.”

McDowell will be honored at the SSWAA National Conference held April 6-9 in Chicago. 

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