Smith SSW Offers A Distinct Advantage: Laine Hammer, M.S.W. ’25

In describing an SSW summer, Laine uses a word often attached to that experience. “It’s intense,” she says. “It’s very rigorous academically. You’re doing a full semester in five weeks. I wondered at the time, ‘Can I really be learning all this information so quickly?’ but since I started my placement, I’ve found that I have.”

Currently Hammer is interning as a counselor in a small city near Oakland, California. All the students in the district are on one campus, K-8 in one building, high schoolers in the other. Having worked with kids before but not in a school system, Hammer is happy to have what she learned in her SSW courses to draw upon. In fact, having two semesters under her belt, she believes, gives her a distinct advantage over those interns who are having to juggle class and work schedules.

Laine Hammer smiles at the camera wearing a blue denim button down shirt.
Photo by Shana Sureck Photography.

By contrast, Hammer can give all her attention to counseling children of various ages and with diverse needs. In the same day, she might see a 6-year-old and a 17-year-old. She feels particular rapport with the high school students she sees: “You can have real conversations with them.” She added, “They seem much wiser than I was at their age, they seem to know themselves very well, they’re curious and receptive and willing to learn and grow.”

Co-leading a social skills class for kindergartners also has its rewards, not the least of which is becoming good friends with another SSW student. “We were on campus together, but we didn’t meet until the last week of classes, when we found out our placements were at the same school district.” They use puppets and videos, among other tools, to teach the 4- and 5-year-olds such basics as how to listen and how to apologize—what the world needs now. She’s looking forward to doing more sessions as the school year goes on.

Before she entered SSW, Hammer had an impressive career as a copywriter. A tagline she came up with for a copy test not only got her hired but also became a key element of the company’s marketing campaign, including appearing larger than life on a billboard. She doesn’t see much overlap between her past and present work areas except that, in both, “you deal with a lot of personalities.”

She feels it's too early to say what she might do after she gets her M.S.W, although she has some ideas. “I’m loving working with kids, so maybe, be a high school counselor? But I’m also hoping my next internship is in a hospital, for a way different experience. I’m leaving room to discover what’s possible.”