Q&A with MSW Intern of the Year, Community Practice: Kyla Wilson
1. Tell us a little about yourself including where you are from?
Hello! My name is Kyla Wilson, (and hopefully you already know that I’m earning my MSW from the Garland School of Social Work!), and I have lived in and loved Waco for the last six years! I was raised in Mount Vernon, Texas, and my current roommate is my best friend and biggest supporter, my cat, Salem Babylon.
2. When did you start begin classes at Baylor? Why did you choose Baylor social work?
I first started classes at Baylor in August of 2017, when I began my Bachelor of Arts, which I completed in December 2020. I began my MSW the next fall in 2021. I chose Baylor Social Work because I knew that I was not yet ready to leave the Baylor family or the Waco community.
3. Why did you choose social work? Would you say social work is your “calling”? If so, why?
Social work is undoubtedly my calling. As soon as I began classes, and met my first member of the GSSW faculty- Professor Carolyn Cole, I knew that this was always where I was supposed to be. I have been passionate about sexual assault survivor advocacy since early into my undergraduate experience at Baylor, it just became clearer that the path to that was Social Work.
4. Do you have a minor or concentration/specialization? If so, what?
My concentration is in Trauma-Response.
5. Involved in any orgs at Baylor/which ones?
While in undergrad at Baylor I served as the President of It’s On Us BU (An organization for sexual assault survivor advocacy and sexual violence awareness and education), and the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core Leadership Council, as the Director of Title IX Policy for Student Government, and was a member of Zeta Tau Alpha.
In grad school, I have worked as a student worker for the Graduate Research Center, an Academic Mentor for Student Athletes, and as a Graduate Assistant for Whitney Luce.
6. Tell us what you are passionate about. Do you have any populations you enjoy working with or would like to?
I am extremely passionate about advocating for survivors of sexual violence and working towards the prevention and education regarding sexual violence. (I’m pretty sure the entirety of my cohort knew the general topic/focus of my capstone before I ever said anything out loud.) I am passionate about working with any and all survivors of sexual violence or working alongside communities and organizations in spaces for prevention and education, but my favorite population to work with and focus on is college students.
7. Tell us about your internship/s, and what you have enjoyed about them (or learned from them).
I have had the extreme privilege of serving as the first Community Practice MSW intern for the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children. My supervisors placed a lot of trust in me, and allowed me to create my own internship, and shape my tasks and experiences according to my passions and interests. These opportunities allowed me to dive further into my passion for advocacy and helped me to discover the true depth of love that I have for community practice. I have had opportunities I never could have begun to imagine for myself, attending a data conference, building my own Bystander Intervention Training curriculum, co-authoring a grant proposal, helping to produce a podcast, and managing an asset-mapping project that will help to connect countless survivors with resources and assets of support. This internship opportunity has equipped me with experiences that are immeasurable in their value, and has encouraged me to view my own practice with both confidence and pride and recognize the hard work that I have done.
My foundation year, I served as an intern for Transformation Waco, predominantly with the students of Carver and Indian Spring Middle Schools. It is through this internship that I discovered that not only do I love social work, I’m good at it! It is impossible to list all of the things I enjoyed about this placement, but getting to know the students, families, and community of the school is something that I will treasure forever. It was in this placement that I discovered the privilege of having someone share their story with you, and the honor of being viewed as a trusted person and a safe space.
8. What does this award mean to you?
I cannot begin to describe how much this award means to me. If you had asked me five years ago if I could believe I was graduating with a Masters of Social Work, I’d probably have looked at you like you had two heads, or thought that you were teasing me. The fact that I am receiving the honor of this award means the world to me, and I would not be here to accept it if not for the countless people in my life who have supported me, loved me, and at times, carried me to this point. I love what I do with my whole heart, and receiving this award makes me believe that others can see that I do too.
9. What are your plans after graduation?
I’m currently still in the middle of finding out what my plans look like after graduation!
10. Any advice for those coming after you?
Don’t be afraid of knowing your passions and knowing what you want to do. Accept your excellence and wear it with humility and confidence.
What others have to say about Kyla:
"Kyla has been an incredible asset to the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children this year. I have been waiting all year for the opportunity to nominate her for this award because I believe she is so deserving. Kyla was placed in the Prevention and Education Department at the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children. We had never had a Community Practice intern before, so Kyla knew from the beginning that this internship would require her to be creative, innovative, self-motivated, and to take initiative. She had the opportunity to make this experience whatever she wanted to be. She has gone above and beyond any expectations I had, and has contributed to the agency in an incredibly meaningful and lasting way. She has essentially created this internship through her initiative and leadership. We brainstormed and talked about hopes and dreams for the internship and Kyla has made it happen. She is passionate about preventing sexual violence and changing the systems that allow this type of violence to occur. She is a critical thinker and has challenged us and those she has worked with to be better, more equitable, and more inclusive. She has grown in confidence and takes every opportunity for further learning and to get involved and learn about another piece of the work at the agency or the work on a larger scale. She is a consummate professional and has led several community-based efforts this school year - with a particular focus on local college campuses. She has been persistent and creative. Kyla is highly competent and does an excellent job applying all of the knowledge, values, and skills she has learned during her MSW program to the work she is doing in the Waco community. The Advocacy Center, and the Prevention Department specifically, are better for having had Kyla here this school year. Her work will last long beyond her internship."
"Kyla has been incredible. The thing that stands out the most is her passionate initiative. The Prevention and Education Department at the Advocacy Center has never had a community practice intern before, and there wasn’t a set path. Kyla came in utterly committed to and passionate about sexual violence prevention work, and she has crafted and spearheaded her own projects and path and has contributed significantly to our department’s work. Not only has our department never had a community practice intern, but we also previously had almost no presence at or work on either Baylor’s or MCC’s campuses. Kyla has made it one of her goals to engage college students on both campuses and build relationships with the Title IX offices there. She has, for example, held meetings with sororities, participated in many tabling events, and created a campus culture survey. This spring she will be gathering the interested students that she’s met through tabling and meetings to engage in facilitated discussions and pursue what community-level prevention work might look like on each campus. Additionally, Kyla has been an integral member of our podcast, and she encouraged and helped move us from a solely audio podcast to include a video version of the podcast as well. When we were applying for a new grant, Kyla took the lead in answering the questions for our department. She facilitates a group at a local high school. And because of Kyla’s insight, intention, and commitment to the work, we advocated bringing her along to a conference in January in South Padre. In all she does, Kyla centers on anti-oppressive and just practices. She is committed to research and best practice, which has helped our department a lot. Kyla is incredibly creative, thoughtful, and humble. She is a wonderful social worker, and I know that she is doing and will continue to mobilize communities to create a more equitable and just world."
"Kyla is a phenomenal student and intern, she has worked hard at her internship to start a group that even when the first few weeks did not turn out as she hoped, pushed through and kept them going. Kyla also is part of a podcast for the Advocacy Center. She spreads kindness, wisdom, and awareness to all."
"Kyla is passionate about her role as an advanced community practice intern with the Advocacy Center. To my knowledge, she is the first community practice intern at the agency and pioneering the role with both integrity and excellence. Her work has included coming alongside the prevention education department to teach lunch groups to high school and middle school students, working with the Title IX office at Baylor and MCC to create programming, and speak at student group meetings on campus regarding sexual assault, she has given presentations, contributed to grants, supported and contributed to a podcast series, tabled and lead out at community events, and much more. Kyla is innovative and a forever learner. When she sees gaps in services or resources she takes the initiative to ask questions and seek out potential solutions through her own research. She thrives in both direct practice but also research and data analysis. Her contributions in class and thoughtful questions boost and strengthen learning application in our conversations. She is a community practitioner at her core and I look forward to seeing what her future holds!"