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> Any Social Workers Out There?, chat about the field of social work
Christine Nectar...
post Sep 19 2008, 08:49 AM
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Ok, so we all knew when we got into social work that we weren't in it for the money. However, I feel like no one prepared me for all the other uncertainties in social work jobs. It's so hard to find any agency hiring for full-time, permenant positions with mostly daytime hours.
i have a family, and my partner works very random hours as an audio engineer, including being on the road for periods of time, so i figured i could be the one with a consistent schedule where i could have my daughter in daycare for the day, and be home most evenings/weekends.
my current job is in the mental health sector, and i work approx 1 weekend every 2 months, and maybe 1-2 evenings in a month, which is fine. however, my contract is up at the end of next month and i am having a bitch of a time finding anything comparable again. besides that, i find it's so much easier to get burnt out when workign a lot of evenings/nights.

has anyone else found this? i know a lot of it stems from uncertainty about funding, but i also feel that social service agencies should know how to look after employees, and value OUR mental health.
thoughts?
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thirtiesgirl
post Sep 10 2008, 12:36 AM
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QUOTE(red_velvet @ Aug 28 2008, 02:26 PM) *
thirtiesgirl: i was going to go the route you went. i was going to get my master's in school counseling only, and then eventually get my LPC. i was warned by a few professionals that i shouldn't go that route, even if i did want to be a school counselor, because it would limit my career options and LPC's can't accept insurance (although i think this is changing). how do you like school counseling? what type of school do you work in? a list of pros/cons would be much appreciated since i think working in a school is in my future smile.gif

Well, as I wrote in my previous post, MSWs can work as school counselors in any capacity - elementary or secondary (which includes middle school and high school). All they need to do is get their PPS (Pupil Personnel Services) credential, aka school counseling credential. They can also work as PSA (Pupil Services and Attendance) counselors; they just need to get the PSA credential.

I work for a public middle school (aka junior high) for the Los Angeles Unified School District. LAUSD is a very large and disorganized school district with a lot of monetary waste, but it's one of the highest paying school districts in my area (there are several other school districts within LA County), and because it's so large, it's fairly easy to find employment.

In my experience so far, my job enjoyment is dependent on the school where I work. Each school administration and APSCS (Assistant Principal over Secondary Counseling Services; the school counselor's boss) has a different management style and level of organization. The past two schools where I worked did not have very organized administration, and the jobs I did were a mix of counseling and many other things - paperwork, event planning (assemblies, activities, etc.), and classroom assisting/teacher support. The one good thing about working for a larger school district is that there are so many schools to choose from, so if I'm unhappy, I can move on and see how things are at another school. This is the start of my third year at my current school, and I plan to start seeking work at a new school for the coming school year. I hope to find a school where I get more counseling experience and the administration is more organized. I'm currently working with a *very* disorganized, scatterbrained AP. We're given many assignments last minute, without consideration of how much time it will take to put them together and do them well, and then sometimes yelled at when things don't go as planned. I'm tired of that kind of behavior, and it's time for me to move on.

I also have my PSA credential, sometimes also known as a CWA (Child Welfare and Attendance) credential, which I plan to put to use after I spend a few more years as a school counselor. MSWs can work as PSAs if they obtain that credential. PSAs make more money than school counselors (at least they do in LAUSD), and the purpose of their job is to work on improving a school's attendance rate. They identify students with chronic attendance issues and counsel them on finding ways to help them continue coming to school. PSAs also, to a point, function as a "hooky cop," as they're often part of the legal process with students who have serious chronic attendance problems and have been ditching school for weeks. Not all school districts employ PSAs, since not all districts have the money to afford them, or have a serious enough attendance problem to need PSAs. But it may be worth getting your PSA credential, if you're interested in it, to have another employment option where you can still work for a school district.

Middle school and high school counseling also have their differences. Middle school is mostly discipline and behavior management, while high school tends to focus on career/college planning and academics, with some behavior issues. After having some experience with middle school counseling, I think my next job search will be for a high school job. LAUSD does have elementary counselors, but not many. It's kind of a specialized area, and not easy to find a job, since it's a very coveted position. That may not be the case in your school district, and it may be easier to find a job as an elementary counselor.

MSWs are sometimes also employed by school mental health, if your school district has a mental health program. They function as a social worker for the school district and have a case load of students that they see weekly at either one or several schools, and do individual personal counseling with their students. You'd have to talk with your school district to find out if they have a school mental health program. This is not something that a school counselor without an MSW can do. Those of us with an MA in education or counseling and the PPS credential solely function as school counselors - meaning our primary purpose is academic counseling, not personal. Although, of course, the personal always comes into it. But the school counselor will redirect the student back to academics and school performance, whereas a school mental health professional will delve further into the issue.

I should also mention that those of us with a MA in counseling can also work as college counselors, an option that MSWs and LCSWs don't have. Although, from what I've heard, it's extremely difficult to find a college counseling job, as, again, they're extremely coveted positions, and most college counselors, once in, don't leave until they're ready to retire.

Anyway, 'nuff said. Hope that answers some of your questions.


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kari
post Sep 9 2008, 11:06 AM
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Hello, busties!

Thirtiesgirl, I am with you....I got my MA in counseling and have been seriously dismayed at the lack of career options. So much so that I think I've decided to bag it, at least for now. My husband is in school, I'm the breadwinner, so I just can't afford to work somewhere for a much lower salary at the moment. sad.gif

Social workers seem to have a much broader range of options, I wish I'd looked into that prior to starting school.
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Christine Nectar...
post Aug 29 2008, 09:45 AM
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i took this program. as far as i know, there are not any others quite like it. when i became aware of it, it seemed like the perfect way to incorporate my interests in women's studies, and social work. i may pursue a bachelor's at some point, but so far i haven't experienced too many barriers to finding employment, so not yet.

some good points made about pushing your comfort levels, and definately comfort levels and areas of interest will change based on experience, exposure etc. for example, when i was a student, i was really intimidated by the thought of working in mental health, until i realized that working in any area of social work, you will encounter mental health issues, and that i was already supporting client's with mental health. i just hadn't thought about it that way. currently, i'm a mental health worker for homeless/at risk persons.
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red_velvet
post Aug 28 2008, 04:26 PM
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lots to respond to here!

thirtiesgirl: i was going to go the route you went. i was going to get my master's in school counseling only, and then eventually get my LPC. i was warned by a few professionals that i shouldn't go that route, even if i did want to be a school counselor, because it would limit my career options and LPC's can't accept insurance (although i think this is changing). how do you like school counseling? what type of school do you work in? a list of pros/cons would be much appreciated since i think working in a school is in my future smile.gif

amazonprincess: i've checked on the website (i live in nj), but still wasn't able to get any clear info. i'll ask my professor when i start classes. i'm so looking forward to deconstructing myself!

christine nectarine: how did you figure out who you wanted to work with? i'm guessing about who i want to work with by what i know about myself, but i haven't been put in working situations yet, so it might change. what level of education did you pursue?

and now for some random thoughts i have about social work...

i get really annoyed when i tell people what i'm looking to do for a career, and their first response is "it's a shame that they make such little money". hey everyone, i'm not looking to be broke. in fact, my goal is to make as much money as i can while doing what i enjoy and helping the world on a small level. since when did being a psychotherapist get equated with making peanuts?

i'm really not looking to get my msw to help people that i don't understand. and i'm not looking to relearn my whole life experience just to prove a point. i'm white, middle-class, and i'm totally unapologetic about it. i abhor white guilt. i'm also not looking to change the world. if i can touch some lives and help some people by being who i am, then that's enough for me. i already have family, friends, and love, so i'm busy enough with my own life.

i suppose you could say that i'm not the typical portrait of someone getting their MSW. while i do have a capacity for great empathy and care, i'm also a big fan of tough love. i feel a good way to help people after giving them the tools they need to get out of their situation, is to highlight the importance of strength and self-esteem. i'd love to meet some people with a similar view.

i look forward to hearing some responses--a healthy debate exercises the mind! smile.gif
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doodlebug
post Aug 28 2008, 02:34 PM
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This is quick, as I'm at work and am not supposed to be online! (I've fled from human services to pursue temping, among other things!) I think social work is totally ABOUT pushing your comfort levels. One of the basic things about understanding oppression and privilege is accepting that you will be uncomfortable. You should feel uncomfortable sometimes - how will you ever equalize power between you and your clients if you don't, at some point, try to push the boundaries of your own power-over?

Anyway, that's all I have time for, sadly. Back later, I hope!


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olivarria
post Aug 28 2008, 01:42 PM
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My ambition is to work in mental health services and possibly with the American Indian population, in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. I think I work best with adults, because although I like kids I never really knew how to interact with them (and Mom ran a home day-care for over 10 years when I was growing up). My college advisor reminded me that people are growing a lot older now, and because depression and suicide happen in such great rates at old age, this population, and the "sandwich generation" will and do have a great need for mental health services.

QUOTE
Privilege truly is invisible to those who have it. I know SW profs who practically tear their hair out, trying to teach oppression theory and social justice models to middle-class white kids....not only can't people see their privilege (or its twin, oppression), they get downright defensive about it, as I'm sure you know. So they don't see a social justice model as necessary. Why would they?


Those are great points. It's hard for me to understand, though, how someone can grow up with privileges and not be able acknowledge them. To me they are blaringly obvious. I understand that people have white- and middle-class guilt (I do at times) and it's hard to deal with that, but the thought of not even acknowledging that privilege is crazy! Especially people who want to be social workers? I think most privilege is a matter of chance and inheritance (white, money, able-bodied, heterosexual, etc.), although a lot of people do work very hard to change their situation money-wise, their inherited circumstance will affect just how easy/hard that is to do.

I think that wanting to work in this field is coming from not only my love for psychology and my own history of mental illness, but a lot of anger I have about the state of the world right now. (I know I'm not rich, but maybe do I have "middle-class white lady syndrome?") I'm a hard-core idealist and I feel very angry and helpless at times. I remember in high school witnessing a lot of gay-hate and other forms of hate, I started volunteering for the LGBT center as a way to channel my frustrations. Maybe this is sort of the same thing? it was between this and becoming a psychotherapist, which still may happen one day. Who knows, maybe one day I'll become a psychologist. But when i was very young I knew that whatever I did, i don't want to spend thousands of hours of my life working for some corporation helping to make to make money for the super rich upper-class. I suppose working for the government wouldn't feel much better, LOL, but i could feel like I'm maybe helping to change things from the inside out. Can you tell that there's a hardcore hippie deep inside of me? Whatever the reason, this is where my passion lies, so I want to use it for something.


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Christine Nectar...
post Aug 28 2008, 10:47 AM
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red velvet, i think it's best that you do know what "group" or area you are most comfortable working with. imo, the fact that you don't want to be in an inner city setting doesn't neccessarily reflect any prejudice or lack of caring, it's just about your comfort zone. and it's hard to help any body if you are really uncomfortable. for example, i know that i could never work with kids. i have nothing against them (have 1 of my own) but it's just not me. i'm more comfortable working with women 19+, generally.

i've found that most people will fall on both sides of the priveleged/oppressed spectrum when you look at different aspects of their lives. when you consider everything that people are judged on in society - race, age, cultural background, marital status, class etc...there will likely be somethings reflective of both experiences. personally i think that (many of us) being female puts us on the oppressed side of the equation. but other factors may be priveleged. it's never simple.
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amazonprincess
post Aug 28 2008, 08:54 AM
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red_velvet- check with the licensing board in your state to see if they specify where you can do your hours. I think most places require a certain amount of practice hours and a certain amount of supervision hours with a licensed social worker, but they don't dictate in what setting you do your hours.

In my MSW program I spent much of the first year deconstructing myself, my experiences, my biases and privilege. It was uncomfortable at times but very interesting and important for my preparation to be a SW. I'm sure we all had different experiences and levels that this process affected us but for me personally it was a powerful journey into a new kind of awareness. By no means do I have it all worked out, but I came out of it much more aware of my own biases and how to set those aside if need be.

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red_velvet
post Aug 27 2008, 11:22 PM
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QUOTE(erinjane @ Aug 27 2008, 06:26 PM) *
(I'm not in social work either but I've been lurking because of my job)

I don't think there's anything wrong with knowing who you want to work with. I think we all find our concentration; I actually love working in the inner city, it's definitely my niche.

I don't understand what you mean by "textbook example of a person". In what regard? I don't think there is such a thing anyways. Your FYI definitely caught my attention though. I think you'd probably benefit from taking a good long look at what racism and privilege are. Acknowledging that you're privileged isn't a bad thing, in fact I think it's a really important step when you're working a job where you have to interact with lots of different people. Of the top of my head my privileges are that I'm white, middle-class, (primarily) heterosexual, and I'm perfectly abled. Of course just acknowledging privilege isn't enough, but that's a whole other thread. tongue.gif

P.S. There are boys here too, and men, and women, and trans folk, and probably whatever else you can think of.



i agree with that you said about my "FYI". actually, a lot of this thread is opening my eyes to the idea of privilege and what that truly means. very enlightening.
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thirtiesgirl
post Aug 27 2008, 11:20 PM
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I've gotta say, props to all those Busties who have or are working on their MSW. I wish I'd done that instead of getting a masters in counseling. I'd have more career options if I had. An MSW can work for group counseling centers - drug counseling, group homes, etc., OR work as a school counselor, or work for school mental health (a little different than school counseling). I think it might have been a better fit for me, but at the time, I was just thinking about getting my degree and getting it over with, so I didn't think that far ahead.


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amazonprincess
post Aug 27 2008, 11:13 PM
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Yay, a social work thread! I have my MSW and will be licensed around the first of the year. I'll be back to participate in this thread when I'm not so tired.
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erinjane
post Aug 27 2008, 05:26 PM
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QUOTE(red_velvet @ Aug 27 2008, 02:15 PM) *
also, is it terrible that i have no interest in working in the inner city or with underprivileged people? i'd rather work with developmentally disabled kids or gifted kids or girls with eating disorders or women in their 20's that are trying to find themselves or women in their 30's that are having relationship problems, etc.

am i a textbook example of a type of person? what type would that be? fyi: i'm not racist or privileged myself at all. i just love helping, am very easy to talk to, and enjoy problem-solving.

thank you, girls! (is it wrong of me to assume that only girls use this message board?)


(I'm not in social work either but I've been lurking because of my job)

I don't think there's anything wrong with knowing who you want to work with. I think we all find our concentration; I actually love working in the inner city, it's definitely my niche.

I don't understand what you mean by "textbook example of a person". In what regard? I don't think there is such a thing anyways. Your FYI definitely caught my attention though. I think you'd probably benefit from taking a good long look at what racism and privilege are. Acknowledging that you're privileged isn't a bad thing, in fact I think it's a really important step when you're working a job where you have to interact with lots of different people. Of the top of my head my privileges are that I'm white, middle-class, (primarily) heterosexual, and I'm perfectly abled. Of course just acknowledging privilege isn't enough, but that's a whole other thread. tongue.gif

P.S. There are boys here too, and men, and women, and trans folk, and probably whatever else you can think of.


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red_velvet
post Aug 27 2008, 02:15 PM
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it's serendipity, i tell you!

i've really been looking for a community/forum type place where i could talk about social work, and i've found it at my beloved bust <3

i'm starting grad school for my MSW in september. i want to eventually become an LCSW and have a private practice. after grad school i'd like to work as a school counselor. my question is: can i get my licensing hours in at a school, or must i work in a hospital or non-profit organization? this question is primarily for people that have already been through the MSW program smile.gif

also, is it terrible that i have no interest in working in the inner city or with underprivileged people? i'd rather work with developmentally disabled kids or gifted kids or girls with eating disorders or women in their 20's that are trying to find themselves or women in their 30's that are having relationship problems, etc.

am i a textbook example of a type of person? what type would that be? fyi: i'm not racist or privileged myself at all. i just love helping, am very easy to talk to, and enjoy problem-solving.

thank you, girls! (is it wrong of me to assume that only girls use this message board?)
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culturehandy
post Aug 27 2008, 11:51 AM
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I don't have a degree in social work, but I'm doing social work type stuff. And I know that some people come from the privilage background thought.

I also see a lot of people who come from social justice, advocacy background.

I see both sides of the coin, then again, perhaps it's because I don't see myself as doing true social work, just more of a policy following monkey.


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Christine Nectar...
post Aug 27 2008, 11:07 AM
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doodle, i think you are very right about the whole privelege model thing. i'm in SW, and also come from white/middle class/nuclear family sort of arrangement. i was fortunate to have some really amazing teachers in college who really emphasized learning about privelege/oppression, and deconstructing our own internalized oppressive assumptions. it was truly mind-blowing at the time. i think (hope) that now i am able to work with clients and bring an understanding and recognition of the POWER difference between us. i also try to be patient with those who don't understand or fail to recognize their own privelege, although it can be EXTREMELY trying at times.

i'm glad somebody started this thread!
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doodlebug
post Aug 27 2008, 12:04 AM
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I'm not a social worker, but I spent 11 years working partway (most of the way) inside the field. I ran a women's centre, which did direct service work (with mostly poor and/or abused women), and which also did human rights advocacy (and paid a big price for doing it). I took in lots of practicum students from the local SW program, too. The centre had a very good relationship with the local university's SW department when I was there, and still does - the chair is actually a teacher in the department! smile.gif

And yeah, I think social work should absolutely stem from a desire for social justice. But I also think, in some people (maybe many)....well, social work does come from a place of privilege. SW's beginnings kind of lie in the well-off white church lady tradition, don't they? The charity work model. I think SW has changed a lot, but I also think a lot of people go into SW with the idea of "helping those less fortunate" than themselves - rich white lady syndrome - and that's a privileged model.

I think, among some people in SW (nevermind the rest of the world), there can be an attitude of dismissal towards SW theories around oppression and privilege (which you have to discuss in order to get to even talking about social justice), largely BECAUSE those people are coming at it from places of privilege themselves. Privilege truly is invisible to those who have it. I know SW profs who practically tear their hair out, trying to teach oppression theory and social justice models to middle-class white kids....not only can't people see their privilege (or its twin, oppression), they get downright defensive about it, as I'm sure you know. So they don't see a social justice model as necessary. Why would they?

I'm sorry I didn't read the articles yet, so I have no idea if I'm even inside the context of this discussion anymore. *sheepish grin*


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thirtiesgirl
post Aug 26 2008, 09:48 AM
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I work as a school counselor and have met many people in the educational counseling profession who I'd consider to be conservative. They often consider themselves religious (usually christian or catholic), and exhibit homophobic, racist and classist tendencies (i.e., they have an issue with minorities and people from lower income families). That doesn't mean they have any less desire to advocate for students than someone who doesn't have those issues; their advocacy just presents itself in different ways. I'd agree that sometimes those ways aren't the most helpful for the child, but the advocates truly believe they are doing the right thing, based on their rather limited worldview.


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olivarria
post Aug 26 2008, 01:05 AM
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Thank you Treehugger for the bump! I was hoping to discuss the social work/counseling or mental health profession with other BUSTees, including our reasons for choosing this field, and for the purposes of stimulating debate and dialogue. I have been committed to social justice for years and am a student of psychology, and recently had an epiphany, realized that social work is my calling - I plan to attend graduate school for social work in about a year, either in Oregon or North Texas, after I earn my B.A.

I have been reading up on social work voraciously, and learned that not only is it a dangerous profession http://www.socialworkblog.org/pressroom/in...yeagers-murder/,
but is severely unpaid and often stigmatized. There are a few blogs dedicated to hating on social workers, mostly written by conservatives (predictably), and by civil rights actvists who claim that the National Association of Social Work and S.W. graduate programs push a leftist agenda and censor opinions that differ from the NASW ethical code. One blog even likens social workers to Nazis, and pegs Hitler as the "godfather of social work." These critics claim that civil rights are violated when the students are required to sign the NASW code of ethics, which states that social workers must commit to social and economic justice, and fight oppression (a pretty broad statement when you get right down to it - these can be very subjective concepts, so they don't necessarly commit you to "becoming progressive").

Here is some food for thought and debate (be careful, conservative propaganda ahead):
http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2007/09/13/...he-professions/
http://www.campusreportonline.net/main/articles.php?id=403 (Hey, no one made you drop all of your classes.)
http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/5346.html

After reading some these articles and blogs i feel conflicted, and here's why: I am 100% committed to free speech and protection of civil liberties, and believe no one should have to state that they are pro-choice or pro-gay marriage in order to earn a degree. However, if these students are not committed to social justice and equality for all (social justice does entail equal rights for all gay/straight/bi, and reproductive rights for women, undoubtedly), why are they studying to become social workers in the first place?!!! Social justice is the foundation of social work!

I was wondering what some of your thoughts are on this....? I absolutely want to be a social worker, and if these conservative assholes feel threatened the "liberal agenda" that is "forced" by social workers, fine by me. Conservatives are not exactly known for their compassion for the working class or helping the less fortunate, you know? But i am wondering what are some of your thoughts on the NASW ethical code and the actions of the professors in the above articles. Do you think that being pro-choice and pro-gay marriage should be prerequisites for becoming a social worker?


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treehugger
post Aug 13 2008, 04:19 AM
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Bump for olivarria


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