Each of our amazing board members chose the profession of social work for a reason and we would like to share their stories with you. Stay tuned for a post about each of the social workers who represent YOU on the NASW-NC Board.
Pam Howell South Piedmont District Representative (2013-2015)
I knew early on that I wanted to be a social worker. I began this journey by volunteering as a “Candy Striper” at the local hospital. As fate would have it, I was located on the gerontology unit working directly under a social worker. I was in high school at the time and volunteered almost daily in the summer months. The work we did with the patients fueled a passion in me. One of my favorite patients was “Walter.” I would sit with him, and we would talk about his life. “Walter” died during my time there; little did I know that grieving his loss would direct my career path.
After graduating from high school, I continued pursuing my dream of being a social worker. I majored in Social Work at Appalachian State University. During my time there, my grandmother died from a battle with cancer. My mother was with her during her death but had no idea she was dying. She saw the signs of her hands and feet turning blue but thought she was cold. This occurred in a hospital setting, and no one told my mother that my grandmother was dying. In fact, just the opposite happened; the hospital staff asked my mother, “Why are you feeding her? There’s no point!” Hours later, my grandmother was dead, leaving a grief-stricken family! That experience fed my desire to help others in moments of trouble and grief.
I continued studying passionately and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. After graduation, my fate landed me at Hospice Cleveland County where I was able to work with terminally ill patients and their families, educating them about grief and loss. This was fulfilling work, and I loved working in death and dying. After 9 years and always longing for a master’s degree, I entered graduate school at Winthrop University while still a full-time employee at Hospice.
During graduate school, fate happened again, only this time, it was much more devastating. My home was hit by a lightning strike during a storm. It burned to the ground in 45 minutes. My husband and our children lost everything, but we still had each other. This experience led me to question everything I knew, and I was tested to the core. I continued with graduate school while working, but my life was forever changed, whether I wanted it to be or not.
Fate intervened again, and I realized that I wanted a different path. Although I loved Hospice work, it was time to help another population. After 11 years, my time at Hospice had come to an end. I saw a position open with the local school system. I was interviewed and hired the same day! This is my 3rd year working with high school students as a school social worker, and I absolutely LOVE IT!
They say, “Everything has a reason,” and I believe it. My journey as a social worker has fit that maxim. I get to work with adolescents with behavior problems, students with mental health issues, and potential dropouts, and I am able to support girls who are pregnant. It is an honor to work as a school social worker.
I have been a member of NASW-NC for 14 years. As the South Piedmont District Representative, I am honored to serve on the Board of Directors and connect with fellow social workers. Social Work is not just a profession; it’s a passion. My journey continues, and I am honored to work in a profession that I love.