My passion for School Social Work roots from wanting to become whom I needed as a younger student. I am invested in guiding students to prosper as individuals both academically and personally. To me, being a school social worker means taking action by impacting a student’s life by recognizing students’ potential to succeed. I’d have to say that it’s been a journey to get to where I am today. So, let me tell you more about how I got started at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

I was introduced to Social Work in high school and quickly learned I wanted to make a long-term commitment to display and practice my skills. I started part-time at Illinois as a Parkland Pathways student, and I earned my Associate in Arts while working towards my bachelor’s degree. With the resilience I held, the School of Social Work at Illinois has been a particularly special place for me. It is filled with compassionate individuals that value you as a human being and care for one’s mental health. The professors in both programs showed trust in my ability to continue practicing Social Work and it’s greatly appreciated.

For my time on campus, I took the leadership position as the Fundraising Chair of The Bachelor Social Work Association (BSWA) and I am now serving as the Fundraising Chair of The Graduate Social Work Association (GSWA). Furthermore, I held two student jobs–working for Foellinger Auditorium and the Illini Union Rec Room, which meant I got to walk through the beautiful Main Quad. These jobs demonstrated how diverse the campus community is, filled with different backgrounds and personalities. Holding these positions on an executive board and being a student employee gave me exposure to how much I’ve learned to love the campus and form strong relationships.

Today, I am pursuing a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) here at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Before I knew that an MSW was required to become a School Social Worker, I knew I wanted to attend graduate school. In this program, I get the opportunity to learn how social workers benefit the lives of students, families, and communities, and that’s exactly who I want to be. Right now, I am most looking forward to completing my upcoming two-semester internship at a local school and I am ready to take this next step.

As for some advice for the current and future students, I encourage you to continuously ask yourself who you want to be. Being on campus may be your first time away from your friends and family, but also away from your comfort zones. If you haven’t already, college is the time to ask: “who do I want to be?” and “where do I want to be?” in both your professional and personal environments. For me, I still ask myself these questions today. Remember to find what works for you. It’s different for everyone. You are the best version of yourself and no one can take that away from you.

Moreover, know that there is more than one way to get where and who you want to be. For instance, when applying to colleges, I was told to take Illinois off my application list because my test scores and grades would not be enough, but it’s not all about the numbers. For me, it was about remaining confident. The worst the university could have said was “no”. Instead, the university said “YES” three times–when I got into the Parkland Pathways program, when I transferred full-time, and now for my graduate program. Don’t let numbers or others define who you are. Remember, you hold the power to be who you are and the power to advocate for yourself – You are going to do great!

Special thanks to my parents, family, sister, friends, partner, mentors, and those at the School of Social Work.