Your source for the social work profession in North Carolina.
NASW-NC would like to introduce you to the new 2015-2016 NASW-NC Board of Directors.
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.
The upbringing I received during my developmental years helped to form values and beliefs that would ultimately lead to my accepting the calling of social work. Batesville, Mississippi, located about 45 minutes south of Memphis, TN, was a community in transition from a mostly agricultural, farming community to a highly industrialized area of textile mills and small factories. People valued hard work, discipline, faith (and football), and genuinely cared for all within the broader community. It was an inclusive and diverse community. Everybody knew each other, had close ties and functioned with a strong economic foundation. It was also a community transitioning from a difficult past of racism and discrimination that was historically centered in the strains of the civil rights movement. A sign next to a downtown church marks the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously gave a speech while traveling through Batesville to Memphis for his “I am a Man” march; it was officially known as the Memphis Sanitation Strike and forever change American history. And despite the remnants of socio-political discord and discrimination resonating beneath the currents, I grew up in a community where people valued the “big picture” and saw “all as one”. We were able to use historical issues as a platform for hope, change, and resilience.
The textile mills and factories eventually closed, suddenly removing the area’s economic vitality and ushering in drugs, gangs, and an increasingly stressful environment. The values of the community, and those instilled in me, never changed; however the social and economic problems certainly brought pervasive (and unrelenting) poverty that eventually broke the spirits of folks. It was the first time I realized the importance of having basic needs for reaching self-actualization. Without basic needs, it was increasingly difficult to conceptualize or actualize goals, and for some to even envision a better life. My escape from this reality was sports, and more specifically, long distance running. I would log 40-50 miles a week on rolling, country hills in all weather conditions, absorbed in spiritual reflection and thoughts of how to change the conditions for the people I most admired.
Long distance running became a mechanism to mentally and physically escape, and a healthy way to bring about social action and attention to the conditions of North Mississippi. I didn’t know it at the time, but being a competitive runner was my first step towards social action and community engagement. I was taught “too much is given, much is required”. Each competition brought an opportunity to showcase Batesville’s beauty, strength, talent and grace, and to serve others through responsible action and personal resolve.
I was eventually selected to compete internationally in Sydney, Australia, and was again invited to race in London, England during my senior year of high school. I broke several track and cross country records throughout Mississippi, with the help of my mentor and coach Charlie Dawson, and earned a full athletic scholarship to compete for an NCAA Division I school. My mileage doubled, exceeding 80 miles a week, and I formed a new family of college teammates and coaches who shared a similar vision as my own. I also began to see the interrelatedness of the mind, body, and spirit more clearly. Student-athlete experiences continued to cement my passion and calling to use athletics to help others find their own health and wellness. In many ways, being a competitive athlete evolved from sports and exercise to social justice work.
My first major in college was Exercise Science. I was now interested in the science behind wellness, with a growing curiosity of the physiological and biomechanical connections to our mental and spiritual health. Exercise science was an incredibly interesting field of study, but my heart was pulled towards the continued oppressive conditions of people, now in south Louisiana, along with a continued “calling” to do more to help. I was restless and unsettled by the conditions of others. I spoke with my academic advisors and track coach about my feelings, and eventually changed my major from Exercise Science to Social Work. Social Work’s core principles, values, and fundamental knowledge base perfectly aligned with my own ethics and call to action. Social Work was the academic embodiment of my soul. Quite simply, when I found social work, I immediately knew it was the profession that would forever be a part of my life’s work. All aspects of my life has perfectly come together and led me to a career of social work practice.
Social work provided a platform for shaping my understanding of the emotional, ecological, and psychological variables for achieving wellness; sports created a context for my having an objective perspective of how our mental health is directly affected by our physical health. And for the past 15 years, I have been utilizing social work practices and wellness paradigms to address the biopsychosocial needs of children, adolescent, and adult clients. I am currently in a doctoral kinesiology program at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, coming full circle back to exercise science, but now within the context of a long career in social work practice. Integrating social work with kinesiology concepts will continue to provide the perfect balance of addressing the health and wellness issues of all. As a member of the NASW-North Carolina Board of Directors, I hope to continue using my personal and professional experiences to humbly give back to Social Work, and to serve all social workers who have also graciously accepted their calling to serve others. Thank you for this opportunity to serve.
Learn more about the NASW-NC Board of Directors and what NASW-NC does for the social work profession in North Carolina