Finding My Way Home: A journey through social work (Part 1)
Finally! After three long years of classes I was entering my senior year of college. I was excited to only have a few classes left to complete my degree in Psychology and Social Behavior. However, for some reason I couldn’t fully enjoy my new “senior” status. Suddenly I felt overwhelmed by the fact that I had no idea what I was going to do after I graduated. I had spent most of my life as a student so I always knew what to expect. Finish one grade…move on to the next. Graduate from high school…go on to college. For the first time I was faced with making a major life decision and I wasn’t sure what to do.
I started to look for various jobs online. I just couldn’t imagine going to work day after day just to get a paycheck. I had to do something that felt meaningful…that made a difference in someone’s life. I began to reflect on what I liked to do and what I felt passionate about. I thought, “I guess I like kids. Maybe I should do something with kids”. If I was really honest with myself though, I cared about children’s wellbeing but I didn’t really like working with them. I was at a loss.
It just happened that I had the opportunity to enroll in a Social Work class the next semester. I looked over the course description and it seemed like an easy “A” so I signed up. Each week in that course something started to click. The more I learned about what social work was and what social workers did I started thinking “this sounds like me”. The values and ethics felt like my own. The focus on fighting for the underdog was refreshing and the explicit mention of topics like discrimination, oppression, and marginalization spoke to my heart.
Sometime around the middle of the semester two recruiters from Masters Social Work programs came to pitch their programs to the class. “A Master’s degree?” I thought. I’d never considered going to graduate school. No one in my family had ever gone and I wasn’t quite sure I could be the first. Was I smart enough? Could I afford it? What would my friends and family think? After all only 9.5% of Americans pursue graduate degrees, and even fewer African Americans (less than 7%). Yet, I felt like God was speaking to me through this Social Work class but I couldn’t be sure. I prayed and asked God to make it clear if social work was what He wanted me to do. I picked a couple of graduate programs, put my applications together, and left it in His hands. I prayed “Lord, let your will be done” and trusted that if He wanted me to go, He’d get me in, and help me get through it.
My answer came around March. I was in! I would be pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work. I was excited, anxious, and terrified all at once. It would be the most challenging (and expensive) thing I’d ever done. I was confident that this is what God was calling me to do.
My entry into the field of social work was unlike anything I could have imagined. I found myself taking classes about substance abuse, mental illness, and racism. I was absorbing the values of service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, human relationships, integrity, and competence. I loved it!
After about a month of interning I felt like I was home. A sense of gratitude overwhelmed me. I would have never guessed that I would be a social worker in a mental health setting. But by God’s sovereign grace and omniscience He led me right where He needed me to be…and it felt good. Over the course of the two year MSW program I would continue to be challenged and develop the necessary skills and insight to function as a professional social worker. What I didn’t know was that my journey home was just beginning.
I was assigned to an internship in an adult mental health clinic. This was definitely not my choice since I had serious fears and biases of those classified as mentally ill. In fact, most Americans believe that people with mental illnesses are dangerous although data suggests otherwise. Nevertheless, I was sure the Field Instructor must have made a mistake because I was supposed to help kids. I decided to trust the process and go where I was sent. At the clinic I learned from a great supervisor and awesome staff who helped to transform people’s lives every day. I met with clients who were a lot like me. They were average folks who had suffered a bad experience, trauma, or were just feeling depressed. I became more aware of the stigma I held about this population. I was especially touched by my African American clients who reminded me so much of my cousins, aunt, mother, and father and I wanted so badly to see them made whole.
Stay tuned for Part II….and in the meantime, leave a comment below letting us know if any of this resonated with you today! All CBU student comments are eligible for a raffle giveaway within one week of posting!
Stuart, H. (2003). Violence and mental illness: an overview. World Psychiatry, 2(2), 121.
Educational Attainment in the United States: 2018. February 2019. https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2018/demo/education-attainment/cps-detailed-tables.html
Krystal Hays, PhD, LCSW, Assistant Professor Dr. Krystal Hays has experience providing psychotherapy, and engaging in capacity building, in community mental health settings. As a social work researcher Dr. Hays focuses on reducing the burden of depression and other mental illnesses and improving mental health treatment outcomes for African Americans. Also, her research explores ways that religiosity influences mental health outcomes and suggests that increased partnerships between mental health professionals and clergy can improve mental and emotional well-being in African American communities.
CBU faculty profile link: https://calbaptist.edu/faculty-directory/profileview?id=555
This post definitely resonated with me because I am currently looking at graduate programs. This story inspired me to put the decision of what graduate program to enroll in into God’s hands. I am currently debating between a MSW or the PsyD program. I know whatever program I chose I cannot go wrong. I loved what Dr. Hayes said about rooting for the underdog, that is how I look at social work from my perspective as well.
I cannot wait for part two!
So glad you found something to speak to you at your current crossroads! I pray that you find wisdom here–we are all looking forward to part two 🙂
WOW! I am so grateful I came across your post tonight. Not only did it resonate with me, but it’s almost exactly what I am going through right now. I only have two classes left until I graduate next semester, and it is just now hitting me that I should probably be getting more serious about looking into and applying to graduate school. I too am an African American woman, and I have always been interested in working with children, so that aspect of your post hit the feels. I hope that some how some way, things will fall together for me how seemingly “easy” they did for you. I am so glad you found your way with God’s guidance, and I am excited to read part II and continue hearing about your journey.
I completely understand your fear of being a “Senior”. I currently have no real plan laid out for my future and it is terrifying, everything thus far just just been laid out like a train track of life. But once yu graduate college its different you have to make that choice of what do i do next? where does my path lead and am I ready for follow? i have been struggling with these questions myself for the last few weeks and reading this post and your journey just gives me hope that when i decided for my own life i’ll be ready.
So glad you both found this post! It’s so easy to think you have to have it all figured out…..yesterday. Journeys are not easy when the end isn’t so clear, but I am glad that you are both asking questions and leaning into any number of the great things that God may have planned for you!
Reading this post made me feel like I was looking in the mirror. I completely related to the fear of being an undergraduate senior and not knowing what my next step is. I always had a plan for my future however, I am quickly learning God’s plan is greater and he will alter my path. I also related to relying on God through prayer and opportunities that arise which I am not confident in. I definitely believe God places us where he wants us to be. Thank you for sharing this post and being personal were many of your readers can connect with you.
I am glad this post resonated with you. God has great plans for you and will continue to guide you in this life journey.
This was a well thought out and uplifting post. thank you for being so open and transparent. I graduate next semester so this was the perfect post for me to see. I was worried about my own biases affecting my job but your story of interning helped me remember that I’m in control of my biases and can control them with knowledge and experience.
This post resonated with me in so many ways! I am so happy to read that I am not alone in the feelings I have within the pursuit of my future career. I have been feeling discouraged with my schooling, and while I am a little over a month away from graduating I have many fears and uncertainties. This post was so encouraging for me, and I am so happy that you have found your passion and your future career. Very powerful blog!
An encouraging and uplifting post that I relate to because I am currently in the senior freaking out stage. The idea of grade school is terrifying to me, but I honestly believe it is where the Lord is calling me right now. Reading your post I feel a sense of calming come over me that this is not a mistake to pursue grade school. The lord has such an unique plain for our lives. I found it interesting how at first your goal was to work as a social worker with children, but you found yourself in a clinic working with people with mantel illnesses. God is good!
you are really speaking for a lot of us thank you
you are really speaking for a lot of us thank you so much
Your title caught my eye off the bat then I read your introduction and that caught me even more. I am currently a senior in my undergrad applying for the MSW program at CBU and my goodness. It is all so exciting and yet overwhelming. I keep hearing that I need to enjoy my last year as a senior, but I honestly don’t know if I even know how to do that.
The doubt and your thought processes are exactly what I am going through right now. I am a first-generation college student with little financial support and that terrifies me. I am doing the same thing right now as I approach new opportunities. I am learning to leave it in the hands of God. I am praying through the applications and everything that entails saying the exact same thing, God only You know my future and what You have planned for me so if this is something, You want me to do, let Your will be done. 100% relate to all those thoughts.
Your journey through the social work program and everything you learned, where you ended up is so inspiring as I am in those steps right now. I pray that I have a similar unique experience of my own. I personally am a mental health advocate, and I am looking to work with persons with developmental disabilities. I am currently working with that population group. I think that I would love to have an internship in this group but also, just like you experienced, being placed with groups you once stigmatized or feel uncomfortable to any extent, are normally the places where we allow ourselves to grow the most. I will definitely be reading the second part to this wonderful story of yours.
Jennifer, thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts as a senior pursing the MSW program!