Joseph McBride Memorial Award Winners

2016: Gabriel Salas

The fifth Joseph McBride Memorial Award was given to Gabriel Salas. Gabriel grew up in Jersey City, NJ and spent six years working and living in New York City before he came to SP2. He considered both teaching and medicine as career paths, but ultimately went with his calling of becoming a social worker because of desire to help those in need at a grassroots level. Gabriel has diverse interests as a young social worker. He is committed to working with the veteran population. He has worked with veterans experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia and he participates in the Pearls Program that helps veterans deal with issues of depression. Gabriel also devotes his time and energy to working with the undocumented population. At Penn, he serves on the executive board of The Latin American Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (LAGAPSA) and has organized a forum on campus to give a voice to undocumented students on campus and the challenges they face as students and members of the Penn community.

Dean Jackson, Professors Gonzalez and Lindren, Gabriel and the McBrides.

Dean Jackson, Professors Gonzalez and Lindren, Gabriel and the McBrides.

Professors Gonzalez and Lindren described Gabriel as someone who is a “leader, but to know him is to know how gentle, compassionate and how steady he is as a person.” He is always the first student to commit to any event on campus. They added that Gabriel “gives us energy and excitement about the future of what our profession will do.” We too are excited about Gabriel’s work and commitment to social work.

2015: Catherine Revak

The fourth Joseph McBride Memorial Award was given to Catherine Revak. Catherine grew up in southern New Jersey and despite an early interest in social work she was discouraged from such a career path. Following high school, Catherine joined the US Air Force where she served honorably for four years. After her stint in the military, she worked for fourteen years in the financial industry. During her time in the military and financial industry, Catherine’s interest in social work shone through as she worked for the rights of the LGBTQ community in both institutions. Her LGBTQ activism took her to DC to lobby congress about repealing DADT, and also to the Philadelphia Steering Committee of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) as the Membership Outreach Co-Chair for the Philadelphia Region.

Andy Fussner, Matt Ditty, Catherine and the Family

Andy Fussner, Matt Ditty, Catherine and the Family

Never having given up on her childhood dreams, at age thirty-six she returned full time to school to complete her undergraduate degree in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and wrote her senior thesis work on Military Sexual Assault, specifically between men, with a concentration on military policies and implications for change. Then at age thirty-nine, she began her MSW. At Penn, she has continued to excel, being chosen for the PEARLS fellowship, which specifically focuses on military social work, and becoming chair of Student Government. As she finishes her MSW, she hopes to combine both her undergraduate and graduate work to continue working with veterans, concentrating on grief and loss extending beyond physical to include identity and spirituality.

2014: Maris Findlay

The third Joseph McBride Memorial Award was given to Maris Findaly. Maris grew up in Maryland and attended Pitzer College, a small liberal arts school outside of Los Angeles that places emphasis on social responsibility and activism. She graduated from Pitzer in 2010, majoring in Urban Studies with a focus on combating mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline. Her passion for work with adolescents began during her time in college, where she had the opportunity to work with young people in both correctional and academic settings.


Prof. Ditty, McBride family, Maris, and Dean Gelles.

After graduating from school, she worked with a social work agency (as an AmeriCorps member) in a Texas middle school to provide support services to 20 students struggling with a variety of issues and challenges. Her experience with AmeriCorps solidified her interest in pursuing social work as a career and it is how she developed a specific interest in advocating for and contributing to the effort to incorporate mental health services into school environments. After leaving the middle school, she came to Penn to pursue a MSW. At Penn, she has focused on working with young people in educational settings to provide mental health support. A former colleague and friend of Joe recommend Maris for the award, writing that she possesses “the finest qualities in a developing young social worker. I know with complete confidence that Joe would have been thrilled to have had her as a student. She is very intelligent, intuitive, reflective, and collaborative as a team member and possesses a sterling sense of humor.” She hopes to continue working with adolescents now that she has completed her MSW.

2013: Carolina Fojo
The second Joseph McBride Memorial Award was given to Carolina Fojo. Carolina was born in Washington DC and raised in Maryland by Cuban immigrants. She graduated summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in Anthropology. After college, Carolina worked at Bon Appétit Management Company, a job that gave her the opportunity to work with Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf and hard of hearing. At Gallaudet, she created an educational program for students to learn about growing local, healthy food. She also worked with the local community to build an on-campus garden and created a summer internship program for students. It was these experiences that influenced Carolina to seek a MSW at Penn.


Dean Gelles, McBride Family, Carolina and Prof. Ditty.

We had the privilege of receiving Carolina’s recommendation from one of Dad’s favorite students at Penn, now an instructor at SP2, Matt Ditty. Matt wrote that Carolina possesses “passion, intellect, and empathy at levels beyond her peers.” He also wrote that she “meets Joe’s criteria for the qualities he looked for in students,” that is someone who treated those marginalized in society with a certain level of respect and dignity, not to mention an “irreverent sense of humor” that can make one a better social worker. Matt finished by saying, “Carolina is an exceptional social worker with an infectious personality.  Joe would have loved her.”


McBrides and Carolina.

After finishing at SP2, Carolina is considering a PhD in social work, but in the meantime she hopes to gain some work experience in the social work field. In particular, she is interested in increasing efficiency and effectiveness in social impact organizations, with a focus on the space where traditional business and non-profit models meet to create social change. It has been a pleasure getting to know Carolina and we wish her the best of luck on her endeavors as a social worker. We know she will be very successful at whatever she does in social work.

For the SP2 article on Carolina click here.

2012: Miles Davison
The first Joseph McBride Memorial Award was awarded to Miles Davison. Miles, a New York native, graduated magna cum laude from Muhlenberg College in 2008 with a degree in Psychology. As an undergrad, he was active in the local peace activist movement, and volunteered as a tutor at a local after-school program.

Miles and Dean Gelles

Miles has already worked in a number of programs with young people, including an AmeriCorps program in Philadelphia where he taught at inner-city schools. Miles’ experience working with students in difficult environments such as this one motivated him to pursue a graduate degree in social work. Miles chose Penn because of it’s focus on race as a core part of the curriculum, and it’s location in a city that he has come to love and enjoy.

In many ways, Miles was a perfect fit for the first award. Dad’s friend and colleague at the department, Andy Fussner, described Miles as someone “who embodies all those qualities that Joe shared with the young people he encountered on his earthly journey.” Andy wrote, “Miles has that special mixture of intelligence, curiosity, good humor, skepticism about jargon, and clarity about practicality that Joe demonstrated for the thirty years of my friendship with him.”

McBride Family, Miles, Dean Gelles

Like Dad, Miles is also an avid cyclist and has led bicycle trips for teenagers in the US and Canada during the summer. After finishing his masters, Miles plans to pursue a career as a school social worker. He hopes to incorporate wilderness experience, social justice, and service learning, into the programs he develops for students. Like Andy, we, too, were equally impressed with this young man and were more than happy to help Miles on his journey as a social worker.