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Student Support Services Staff Member Receives Top Honor
Posted 11/6/18

The California Association of School Social Workers (CASSW) has recognized a Lawndale Elementary School District staff member as the 2017-18 Social Worker of the Year.


Lawndale, CA, November 5, 2018– Maria Ruelas, Ed.D., MSW, PPSC, District Social Worker for the Lawndale Elementary School District (LESD), has been named the 2017-2018 Social Worker of the Year by the California Association of School Social Workers (CASSW).


The CASSW Social Worker of the Year Award is an annual recognition given to a social work professional who has demonstrated commendable social work practice and involvement in the field of social work and other professional, civic, and community organizations.


As District Social Worker, Dr. Ruelas has raised awareness and provided increased mental health services and social/emotional supports for Lawndale students and their families. Furthermore, she has been instrumental in establishing the district as a Teaching Institute for the Susan Dworak-Peck School of Social Work at the University of Southern California (USC), allowing the district to offer internships for bachelor and graduate level students. The LESD internship program provides high quality, hands-on experiences that are invaluable for students in various disciplines and programs. USC recognized LESD as “Agency of the Year” in 2016.  


Dr. Ruelas began her school social work trajectory in the LESD Student Support Services department seven years ago and is currently responsible for students support services for the entire school district, which serves eight schools and approximately 5,500 students. She has helped to develop the infrastructure for future program development, strategic planning, and professional development. Her crisis response techniques, prevention strategies to reduce disciplinary incidents, response to emergencies, and communication with families regarding mental health support have positively impacted Lawndale students. 


“Maria has an unwavering desire to make our world a better place for our students and those in need. She is a strong natural born leader who sets high standards for herself and those around her.  She is always the voice of reason, and someone you can always count on to do what’s right. We are proud to have her at Lawndale,” says Jorge Arroyo, Director of Student Support Services at LESD.


With regards to her passion for the social work field, Dr. Ruelas states, “I am proud to be a social worker in a school district. I am deeply committed to the profession and guided by the social work values of service, social justice, dignity, integrity and human relationships to provide individualized supports to all students.”


Dr. Ruelas received both her Master of Social Work and Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern California (USC) and she will be honored as Social Worker of the Year at the 22nd Annual School Social Work Conference in Lakewood, CA on Friday, November 9, 2018.


Maria Ruelas

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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Enrique Pivaral at (310) 973-1300 ext. 50010 or email at