1. Tell us about your SC AHEC scholarship. What’s the program, and where is this going to lead you in future social work practice?
The SC AHEC Scholars program is part of a national initiative that provides future healthcare workers (social workers included!) with additional education, training and resources to provide quality care for rural and underserved populations. The program addresses several core topics such as social determinants of health, cultural competency and building skills needed to work on an interprofessional team to maximize patient outcomes.
I am most excited about the opportunity to learn how to integrate multiple types of care for a more comprehensive and holistic approach to treatment for underserved populations. Quality care can be so hard to access for rural populations and other marginalized groups. So integrative services are vital to meeting the needs of those communities.
A lot of my interest in social work speaks to mezzo and macro-level practice. So, my participation in the program may look a little different from med students or clinical social workers. But I'm hoping this opportunity will give me the experience needed to go on to provide leadership in community health initiatives, especially those that address underlying social determinants of health.
2. What brought you into social work and the Greenville program?
I am a non-traditional student in that my professional background is a little... all over the place. I try to look at it, though, as if my experiences have made me a "jack-of-all-trades”. But for a long time, I felt unsure of what I really wanted to do with my life. I was afraid to go back to school--especially as a 30-year-old whose undergrad experiences felt so far in the past. But then I found a job that I really felt passionate about at Pendleton Place. I was working in a group home with about a dozen teenage girls and transgender adolescents. I helped the residents identify and work towards personal goals. I helped with homework, job applications, and I even sat in the passenger seat while they learned how to drive (which was a little scary at times, I must admit). I got to see these kids for everything they are, and was there to support them during setbacks, and celebrate victories. Many of my coworkers were social workers. So that experience set me on the path I'm following right now. I wanted a good in-state school where I could study part-time and with options for online learning--so the part-time program in Greenville (where I currently live) was an obvious choice.
3. Faculty members cite your many accomplishments – tell us a little about yourself.
I come from a very small rural town in North Carolina. I did my undergrad studies at App State in Boone, NC. From there I have just followed my heart wherever it took me. So, I've moved around a lot. But I'm pretty settled in now in Greenville. I met my fiancée here (wedding planning during grad school is wild) and I genuinely care about this community. Outside of school, I'm involved in probably too many causes... I'm very committed to harm reduction, as a person who is open about being in long-term recovery, so I've done some volunteer work in that sector and am about to attend another conference later this month. I'm also a big proponent of community mobilization and mutual aid, so I'm pretty active in my community in general. I have a history in animal rescue, so in my free time, I help connect community members with needed services. I consider myself a life-long learner. I'm an avid reader and a passionate writer. I'm also learning Spanish (y estoy buscando a alguien con quien practicar!). In the future I am looking forward to my internship with Root & Rebound where I will be assisting people who have been impacted by mass incarceration. I'm also hoping to find some research opportunities to explore my interest in that part of social work as well. So, I'm a very busy lady.
4. You just won a DuBose scholarship. What’s that all about?
The Mike and Debra DuBose Scholarship assists students from underrepresented populations. I come from a long line of rural folks who made do with very little. But my parents always made sure I had a comfortable upbringing. I saw how hard they worked, and that inspired me to do the same--just in a different way from previous generations of our family. I am a poor, disabled, queer woman from a rural, underserved community...no one expected me to go to college, much less grad school. But here I am, thanks to the support of the DuBoses and many other programs, scholarships and individuals who helped me overcome barriers along the way.
5. Any practical advice for someone starting your program?
Get organized. Sit down with a planner and look at all your assignments and commitments and plan wisely. But always make sure to take time for self-care and pursuit of your passions outside of school as well. Most importantly, don't be afraid to ask for help.