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Cecilia Bloomquist: New Home, New Career

Few would leave their homeland to improve their English. Cecelia Bloomquist traveled from Brazil and earned a master’s degree in social work. Today she provides psychotherapy services for children and their parents, helping them navigate through struggles as they realize their dreams for a happier life. Those who can, think outside the borders.

Cecelia Bloomquist

Cecilia Bloomquist wanted to learn better English in the United States. She wanted to move from Brazil to a state where people didn’t speak a lot of Portuguese, and it was always her dream to learn to ski.

That's how, in 2008, Bloomquist moved to Grand Marais, Minn. She did learn to ski at Lutsen Resort. "Now I love to ski," she said. "And I married my ski instructor."

Bloomquist knew she needed a graduate school education to find work in the U.S. Because she had an undergraduate degree in psychology from a university in Brazil, she chose the Master of Social Work (MSW) program at UMD.

“The MSW program can open a lot of doors; graduates can choose careers in many different areas,” Bloomquist said. During both of her two years as a UMD student, she participated in internships, the first in the psychotherapy department of the Human Development Center in Grand Marais and the second in a child protection program with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

The Will Dodge Fellowship was given to Bloomquist to undertake a community project. She used the funds to help young people in the Grand Marais area. Many foreign workers come to the north shore of Lake Superior to work in the resort industry. “This is a vulnerable population. Their use of the English language isn’t very good, and they don’t have a good understanding of American laws.” Bloomquist organized a dinner, put on by a local church, and gave a presentation to foreign workers about U.S. laws and resources in the area.

At UMD, Bloomquist also received the Don and Mary Maypole Scholarship. "I had the wonderful opportunity to have lunch with Don Maypole," Bloomquist said. “I found out that he was a social work teacher in Portugal. It was a surprise, and it was great to speak Portuguese with him.”

When Bloomquist started the social work program, she worked full-time in order to pay for tuition and gas. Later that year, when she received a scholarship, she was able to work part time. In her second year she received the Don and Mary Maypole Scholarship, a full scholarship. That scholarship, along with a Child Welfare Scholarship, allowed her go to school without working.

“I learned so much from the faculty and students," she said. "Because English was my second language, if I hadn't had such great help from my class mates, I would have dropped out.”

After Bloomquist graduated in spring 2012, she was hired by the Human Development Center (HDC) in Grand Marais. Although she provides psychotherapy for people with a variety of needs, she primarily works in the child protection area. "For instance, I help the family if a child has been maltreated," Bloomquist said. "I work with the children and also with parents to help them learn better parenting skills." Bloomquist also works in a school in Silver Bay one day a week, providing psychotherapy for students.

Bloomquist felt prepared. About 60 percent of the people in her HDC caseload are Native American. UMD gave her a strong introduction to the American Indian culture. She participated in a summer institute about American Indian families. She found it informative and moving. “All of us in the class participated in a sweat lodge," she said. An elder explained every step of the process. “There was singing, and we passed around tobacco. I had never done anything like it, my body was experiencing the heat and at the same time my mind became more relaxed. It brought us closer as a class because we went through the sweat lodge together. It was an amazing experience, and it helped me to a better understand the American Indian culture.”

Those Who Can, Duluth

Written by Cheryl Reitan with Korin Olgaard, December 2012

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UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,

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