Some social work students are fortunate to witness first-hand the roles and importance of those in the profession. It may motivate them to help others understand how social work professionals are found in nearly every aspect of society. Senior Emily Neel can credit her mom as inspiration for choosing to follow her into the social work field.
“I always wanted to work with people and thought about counseling and therapy,” Neel says. “But my mom said social work was the best route to follow. I went into the program with a specific idea of what I wanted to do but have become passionate about all of the social work aspects.”
Neel’s mom is a social worker at a nursing home in suburban Charlotte, North Carolina. As much as her mom’s clients love her, they were just as excited to share their appreciation for her whenever Neel went to the nursing home.
“My mom is an amazing person. Whenever my sister and I went to see her at the nursing home, countless people were excited to meet us because we were Lora's children,” Neel says. “They are excited to tell us how much they love our mom, how much she has helped them, and what she means to everyone.”
While Neel’s mom has an older clientele, she works with a younger population. Neel, who has always wanted to work with children, has been a summer camp counselor and enjoys cultivating relationships with children and helping them deal with conflicts. Since last spring, her field placement has been at Langford Elementary School in Blythewood, South Carolina with her supervisor and College of Social Work alum Morgan Lea Daniels, MSW ‘12.
Neel was initially unsure about working at a school, but she enjoys collaborating with administrators and interdisciplinary teams, and hearing perspectives from different professionals. She has also participated in various assessments, such as the Columbia-Suicide Severity Risk assessment and McKinney-Vento Housing assessment for homeless children.
“I enjoy observing and reflecting on the assessments because it's interesting to apply the theories and frameworks we discuss in class and see how it plays into her (Daniels) decision based on the social work code of ethics,” Neel says. “It's made me think about my own ethical boundaries and how I'll use those same frameworks.”
When Neel needs time for self-care, she shares her passion and advocacy on campus as president of the student organization Changing Health, Attitudes, and Actions to Recreate Girls. The organization brings together female students for different types of exercise and fitness, but according to Neel, it is more than maintaining and improving physical health.
“CHAARG is open to all UofSC students regardless of gender identity. It’s dedicated to helping women understand that there is more than just using the elliptical at the gym,” Neel says. “There are different aspects of CHAARG, such as mental health, professional development, and overall well-being. I see it as an advocacy group for women's rights and advancing women in health-related ways through fitness and professional development.”
Neel also gives back to the college by serving as an upperclassman mentor to Lower Division Bachelor of Social Work students. She provides guidance and advice and often finds herself discussing common misconceptions of the social work field.
“I was with a sophomore student, and we talked about how every time you tell someone that you’re a social work major, they say something such as, ‘It takes a special kind of person,' or ‘I can't believe you want to do that,’” Neel says. “It's important to explain the various aspects of social work and how social workers are present in almost every environment.”
Neel intends to pursue her Master of Social Work degree and eventually work with children or as a school social worker. She would also consider her initial interest in mental health and counseling. But Neel can always look at her mom’s career and compassion for inspiration and motivation.
“I already look up to her because she is my mom,” Neel says. “But seeing how much she helps people and the difference she has made in so many lives, it inspires me to be more like her.”