Bodequia Simon was a high school senior in Florence when she spent some time shadowing a hospital social worker, tagging along as the case manager visited new mothers, pediatric patients and the elderly.
“I loved how she maneuvered around the hospital and how she was able to connect everyone with what they needed,” Simon says.
That day started her on her career path – heading to the University of South Carolina where she earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees from the College of Social Work. Her education provided the foundation for improving the lives of patients along with the careers of other Black women who are interested in pursuing social work.
“I had an absolutely amazing time at USC,” she says. “My professors really helped me hone into what I was passionate about, and I saw the wide range of impact you could have in your community through social work.”
Simon’s community is now Greenville, where she landed in 2019 as a licensed master social worker at Prisma Health Greenville Memorial Hospital, working in case management in the hospital’s emergency room. Much of her time is spent helping with discharge planning for behavioral health and other medical patients.
She also spends time on Black Girls in Social Work, an organization she created on a whim while she was working for the South Carolina Department of Social Services in Columbia soon after she earned her master’s degree from South Carolina.
“I didn’t know how to continue on in the field of social work and have success in the way I wanted it to look. I had no idea what to do next. I was looking for community,” she says.
So one day on her lunch break she created a Facebook group for African American women who were social workers or were interested in the field. It took off. Now at more than 20,000 members around the country, the organization holds monthly meetups, and provides career networking and encouragement for new social workers. The group also sponsored a fundraiser to pay stipends for students preparing for the licensure exam.
For Simon, it is a way to spread the word about the wide range of roles that social workers play in various fields.
“Social workers matter because we are that middleman for every little thing where there is a disconnect. We are the connecting piece between so many moving parts in so many systems,” she says. “The resources are there, the organizations are there, the agencies are there. But it’s hard getting vulnerable people and vulnerable populations to the right agencies and organizations when they lack so much. We are that connecting piece.”