When deciding on a career, Kris Hora chose social work because it was a good match for her personal values and compassion.
After a career of helping people help themselves, Hora, currently the social worker at Crooked Lake
Elementary School and the school district’s lead social worker, will retire at the end of the school year.
Prior to moving to Minnesota, Hora worked in a hospital setting.
In 1990, she began her career with the Anoka-Hennepin School District as the head secretary at Coon Rapids High School.
A social worker position opened up in 1994 and Hora moved into that role. She also returned to school to earn a master’s degree in social work.
When Hora began her work as a social worker in the district, social workers were assigned to two schools.
Although always based at Crooked Lake, over the years Hora has also work at Hoover, University Avenue and Jefferson elementary schools and the teen pregnancy program.
In 1999, the school district decided to have a full-time social worker in all elementary schools.
Hora had a choice between Crooked Lake and Jefferson elementary schools and chose Crooked Lake.
That same year the school district created a lead social worker position. Hora applied and was selected.
Hora made the decision to apply for the lead social worker position because Anoka-Hennepin has a group of talented social workers, but they needed a way to work together and to be cohesive.
“I thought I could bring everyone together and make that happen,” Hora said.
“We have worked on team building, staff development and meet monthly to share resources and support each other.
“This has been a very positive thing for us and it has been very rewarding for me to work with talented social workers.”
For Hora, the best thing about her job is working with children.
“There are challenges and sorrows and really tough times you see kids going through, but I also see so many resilient children and so much hope; there are so many positive outcomes,” Hora said.
“There hasn’t been a single day in my career I wish I was doing something different. This is very rewarding work.”
During her 20 years as a school social worker, Hora has seen the role change.
When social workers worked at multiple buildings and time was limited, they could only do crisis intervention and put out fires.
Being at a building full time allowed staff to develop relationships with students and get to know families and do more prevention work with all the classrooms.
In this time, children have also changed.
“Their mental health needs have become much greater,” Hora said. “I see a lot more children with anxiety and depression.”
A change coming this fall to the district is the addition of social workers in middle and high schools.
The program will begin with social workers, for the most part, working half time at a middle school and half time at a high school.
This will allow them to possibly assist students from the same families in different buildings.
Hora said this is something the elementary school social workers have requested for years.
“We compile statistics and know the number of fifth-grade students we’ve seen for mental health issues,” she said.
“While school counselors and assistant principals help middle school students with personal problems, they also have to focus on testing, career planning and academic scheduling, leaving them little time to deal with mental health concerns.
“I am so pleased for our students and staff that the social workers positions are being added to the secondary teams.
“It will take a burden off of counselors and assistant principals and meet the dire need of our secondary students.”
It’s important for families to know that “social worker” should not be associated with something negative nor should they be looked at as family therapists, according to Hora.
Social workers are mental health professionals and are part of the team to help students be successful in school, Hora said.
“The bottom line for us is to develop relationships with students,” she said.
“We know their names, smile at them, treat them with respect and dignity and give them unconditional positive regard.”
As Hora wraps up her work at Crooked Lake, she has received heartfelt and sweet notes from students.
She is sharing her personal library with her fellow social workers as a parting gift at their last meeting.
“It’s been a privilege to have them as my colleagues, but they are not just my colleagues, they are my friends,” Hora said.
“And they’ve helped so many children to be friends. They are an amazing group of social workers who give their all for kids.”
In retirement, Hora will shift having 500 children in her heart to focusing on her six grandchildren, most who attend Anoka-Hennepin schools.
“I haven’t had the chance to be a grandparent volunteer,” Hora said. “I’m looking forward to that.”