What is the spirit of social work? By our definition, it is Anais Tello, the 2022 Alicia Martinez BSW Spirit of Social Work Award recipient.
Anais, who recently graduated from the Garland School of Social Work with her BSW, is someone you would call a true advocate for others who has used her own story to develop a passion for social work and a deep desire to see prison reforms and improve recidivism. As a child, Anais was introduced to social work through her school social worker who would pray daily for Anais’ safety…it was in this space she developed her calling to help others just as this social worker had helped her.
Why did you choose social work? Would you say social work is your “calling”? If so, why?
After adopting my sister in 2017, I gained a love for counseling and an admiration for what social workers did for families and clients. I knew that I wanted to do for others what was done for me: comfort, aid, acknowledgment, and so much more. Every day through my classes here at the GSSW I felt affirmed in my choice of major. Not only was the content exciting but has encouraged me to find social work in all aspects of my life. The professors and peers that I have come alongside these four years have also added to my love of Social Work and my experience in growing through education. All have shown what social work is in every facet of living, whether it be through advocation, support of each other, new ideas or perspectives, and so much more. Social work has been such a blessing and constant within my time here at Baylor and I am excited for what is to come through obtaining my MSW.
From a family of educators arises Micaela Jones—emerging social worker. This graduating senior originally thought she would continue the “Jones legacy” as a teacher until she began student teaching and realized that many times, the “home prevented students from being able to thrive in the classroom.” Couple that with a heart for justice, and it became clear that social work was the correct path for Micaela to pursue so that she could impact change at a larger systemic level. It was this passion that earned Micaela the title of BSW Outstanding Student of the year!
“Nataly represents so much of what we are talking about nationally in terms of health care workers on the front lines during COVID-19. She is an academically excellent student. Nataly managed the many challenges of COVID-19 in her placement with dedication, perseverance and excellent client care this year,” said a colleague of the 2021 BSW Intern of the Year: Nataly Sanchez.
Nataly said she chose social work because of her strong passion for community building as well as her goal to fighting human trafficking.
“I used to not stand up for myself. I think because of the nature of kindness at Baylor and the sense of advocacy that the School of Social Work instills, I do [now],” said Isabella Book, winner of the Garland School of Social Work BSW Spirt of Social Work Award. “I always knew I had it in me, but I just never carried through. I have a voice now, and I'm not afraid to use it.”
Isabella said along with learning about the importance of advocacy, the Garland School of Social Work has also inspired her to pursue what she believes to be her lifelong purpose and career path-- being a hospice social worker.
Being raised as a “military kid,” BSW Outstanding Student Award Winner Asianna Brown knew she always wanted to foster such meaningful connections as the ones she was fortunate enough to experience with social workers growing up.
“I reflected on a lot of my encounters with social workers as a military kid. I had my parents deployed at the same time, at points in my life. Sometimes my mom would be deployed and my dad would be in a different state so I had to deal with that,” Asianna explained. “I had a social worker who [would say], ‘Hey, I'm here to help,’ and it was a big relief to have somebody in my corner. I want to do that for other military dependents.”
The Garland School of Social Work (GSSW) proudly salutes Laken Shelton, the 2020 BSW Intern of the Year. Laken is a senior from Henderson, Texas.
Laken never thought she would pursue a career in social work. But, having grown up with social workers in her life through the foster care system, she looked into it at her mother’s suggestion as classes began at Baylor. Laken declared social work as her major that day and has never looked back.
“I do feel [now] that social work is my calling,” Laken said. “I am passionate about working and walking alongside children and families involved in the child welfare system.”
Abu Kamara excels both inside and outside the classroom and has known from his first semester of college that social work was right for him. Abu is an athlete, a humble academic and an aspiring social work rock star!
According to his classmates, Abu was the only male in his #BU20 cohort, and while this might be difficult for some, he has remained a "steadfast and humble learner throughout the years."
Humility, curiosity and leadership.
These three characteristics have been used to describe senior Colorado Springs native and 2020 Garland School of Social Work (GSSW) BSW Outstanding Student recipient Megan (Meg) Peck.
Though she didn’t know what social work was at the beginning of her freshman year, this posture of open-mindedness is perhaps what led Peck to listen to the many voices repeatedly telling her it would be a good fit.
“I always wanted to be a counselor, but I appreciate how the profession of social work puts an emphasis on social justice and cultural humility,” she said.
Fast forward three and a half years at the GSSW and Peck has experienced community, growth and encouragement all while discovering her passions and using her voice to bring about positive change.
Coming to Baylor from Freeport, Texas, Haleigh Culverhouse grew up with parents who greatly value social justice and operate a nonprofit organization which supports women at risk for or recovering from human trafficking. Their support, as well as a focus on mental health and self-care within her family, helped open her eyes to a career in social work.
When asked how she felt about receiving the Spirit of Social Work Award, Haleigh said she was “surprised” and “honored.” She also had a sizeable list of people she owed thanks to throughout her social work journey.
Haleigh interned at Waco Center for Youth this past spring, where she cared for adolescents with varying mental health diagnoses. She worked under the supervision of a therapist and met individually with girls at the center to talk them through their thoughts and feelings before they were to meet with other staff members. She also planned and lead group therapy sessions
“You really have to find what you’re passionate about, and people who are passionate about the same things.” That’s exactly what Jenna did when, after a few meetings with Baylor’s career services, she found her calling to social work. Since discovering that calling, Jenna has realized her interest in the macro aspect of social work. Dr. Holly Oxhandler, Garland School of Social Work’s associate dean of research, opened up that door for her and was especially helpful in aiding Jenna through her journey. Within the macro aspect, Jenna’s focus has been at the intersection of social and economic issues.
Often, being a transfer student at a new university can be a culture shock and come with its share of difficulties adjusting; however, for senior BSW student Jeremiah Moen, his background as a transfer student has helped him continue to dive into his passions and grow as a future social worker.
Jeremiah started his college education at San Jacinto College in southeast Houston. He was taking general courses at the time and had not decided on a specific career path. After a year and a half, Jeremiah’s father suggested that he take a semester to decide what he wanted to major in. He told Jeremiah to take a class in each of the major subjects he was interested in to help decide. Jeremiah took courses in elementary education, engineering, calculus, and a counseling class.
With parents who own a nonprofit agency that supports women who are at risk for or recovering from human trafficking, it is no surprise senior BSW student Haleigh Culverhouse came to Baylor to study Social Work. Growing up, she knew she wanted to help people like her parents but was not sure what she wanted to study. Eventually, while on a mission trip to India, she found her answer–– or rather, it found to her.
Growing up, BSW student Aimee Bennett was particularly concerned with issues of homelessness, poverty, and child abuse. Aimee came to Baylor as a speech pathology major, with her parents' encouragement, but eventually found that she wanted to pursue a career where she would develop more personal relationships.
Hannah Crawford, pictured below at left, presented her research on voluntary kinship during URSA Scholars week at Baylor. Her topic was one of the last projects Diana Garland worked on with help from Becky Scott.