It’s March, and while many are talking about MARCH MADNESS and which schools will be in the Final Four, it’s also National Social Work Month. It’s also important to note that one up and coming basketball star wouldn’t be where he is today if it weren’t for a Social Worker.

Meet Notre Dame Guard Demetrius Jackson. Jackson was 12 years old when he was placed into foster care. He was one of the lucky ones – it took “only” two years and “only” two foster homes before his Social Worker was able to place him in a “forever” home with his new family. Before he became the all-time leading scorer in St. Joseph County with 1,934 career points, Jackson was a sixth-grader with a father in jail, and a mother and siblings he left behind.

The White House officially recognized March as National Professional Social Work Month in 1984. Professional social workers assist individuals, groups, or communities to restore or enhance their capacity for social functioning, while creating societal conditions favorable to their goals. The practice of social work requires knowledge of human development and behavior, of social, economic and cultural institutions, and of the interaction of all these factors; it is for that reason that we want to highlight one of our own.

Meet Alex Zuccaro, a Program Coordinator at Casa Valentina in charge of seven young men. Alex entered the Social Work field in 2005, joining the Department of Labor as a Counselor with Job Corp. and later becoming a Guardian ad Litem and Youth Advocate in our state’s capitol. Alex describes his most rewarding experience as working with clients and still keeping up with them after they’ve moved. Since becoming a Social Worker, he has noticed changes for the better and sees the system as evolving, however he also sees the biggest challenge for these young men is a lack of community services and accessibility of those services for them to advance in their lives.

Alex has been with Casa Valentina since 2011 and in that time has helped the lives of over 15 young men, many of whom have experienced more than two foster homes, have been in foster care for more than two years and were not placed with a “forever” family. To Casa Valentina, Alex Zuccaro is a star. He may not be hitting three-pointers for a Final-Four team, but he knows that the work he does, as well as the work other Social Workers do, allow for former foster care youth like Demetrius Jackson, to succeed and win at life.

So while you’re completing your brackets at work, school, home, try and share this new tidbit. If it weren’t for a Social Worker helping a young boy in rural Indiana, March Madness might be a lot different this year, so thank a Social Worker for all that they do.