Meet Hayoung Park, 2023 BSW Outstanding Student
Hayoung Park was born in South Korea and moved to the States in 2001, and has lived in Waco since she was in the third grade. She is very involved in the Waco community and says has been presented with so many opportunities to cultivate relationships and a sense of knowing with phenomenal local leaders. Throughout her college years, she has been grateful for the complex, diverse and rich community that she has experienced here in Waco.
If Hayoung had to describe herself in one word, it would be: analytical. In class, in work and in friendships and relationships, she loves being able to figure out the deeper meanings of things. If her friends could describe her, it would be that she is passionate. Her friends see the part of her that gets really excited about simple things like Taylor Swift songs or fun soup recipes, as well as more complex things like social work or social justice. Hayoung doesn’t like to do anything half-heartedly, especially with her deep friendships, and she thinks that part of her has become a significant aspect of her relationships with them.
Hayoung is passionate about her major and learning about social work.
“There are so many reasons why I got into social work, but the main reason is that this profession is one that invites me to bring my whole self to the work that is being done. It means a lot to me that the work of justice that I do publicly is only as deep as the work of compassion within me," Hayoung said.
Studying social work can sometimes be challenging. In this field, students dive deeply into crisis, oppression, and injustice, and they sometimes experience a rollercoaster of grief or anger in the midst of study. Despite this, Hayoung said she loves learning more about how she can benefit the community and lead meaningful change.
"A lot of my professional interest lies in the intersection of social justice and faith communities. I have seen the influence that religious organizations have on mental health, neighborhoods poverty, abuse, politics, and so many other things. But, I see how social work brings a unique systems-oriented, justice-driven perspective to these issues," she said. "I also see how theology and spirituality are powerful in motivating people groups towards social change. I believe that there are far too many churches that have siloed efforts to care for the vulnerable, and that has ultimately weakened their ability to effectively cultivate human flourishing."
Hayoung said she feels like a large part of her calling is empowering faith communities to participate in social justice in ethical and compassionate ways.
"I want to provide therapeutic support to clergy, especially in order to inspire them toward healthy leadership. I want to organize and educate alongside congregations so that they have reciprocal relationships with their neighborhood," she said.
Hayoung began her journey with Baylor Social Work in the fall of 2021.
“I was drawn to Baylor initially because of the BIC honors program, most definitely in spite of the fact that it was in my hometown. Looking back, I am so grateful that Baylor Social Work is situated in Waco. This city is such a fascinating collection of longstanding social services, innovative non-profits, vibrant cultural identities, and highly invested communities.”
There are so many reasons why I got into social work, but the main reason is that this profession is one that invites me to bring my whole self to the work that is being done. It means a lot to me that the work of justice that I do publicly is only as deep as the work of compassion within me!
She was able to experience this while working for the Family Abuse Center for her internship. At the Family Abuse Center, she did case management with survivors of domestic violence in the housing department. Much of her work was centered around helping them transition into housing units of their own and creating a sense of ownership while living a self-sufficient life. Throughout this internship, she realized so much about working from a place of rest and abundance, instead of working in order to earn rest.
"I have meditated a lot recently on the idea of 'prayer is work and work is prayer.' My faith has been a really significant driving motivation for all the work that I do. I love the idea that my inner spiritual life is a very valid, active, tangible part of my vocation just as my work with clients in my internship or all the essays I have written in college are, in some mysterious way, a prayer and meditation," Hayoung said. "Especially in the context of social work, it is important to me to see how ordinary things like a timely phone call or a kind word can be sacred. It centers me to see sacred beauty in the people and communities I work with even when life is difficult and confusing."
In addition to being involved with the community, Hayoung is also an active member of Waco’s Asian Leaders Network and attends All Saints Anglican Church.
What advice would Hayoung give to those who are coming behind her in this profession and program?
"Find your people and let yourself be found! I know that all of the wonderful experiences and accomplishments of mine were possible because of people who were willing to step into my boring, messy, and ordinary life," Hayoung said. "It’s so worth your time to be faithful to people who are willing to be faithful to you. If you want to live a sustainably just and graceful life, I encourage you to eagerly search for and cultivate deep friendships with good people."
Hayoung will remain at Baylor for her MSW/MDiv degree through the GSSW and Truett Seminary. Congratulations, Hayoung! Go make a difference in this world! #sicemsocialwork