Senior Allie Farrell found her future career path while taking an introduction to social work course during the spring semester of her freshman year. The Wayzata, Minnesota native came to Columbia undecided on her major and was waiting for that right feeling on which curriculum she felt best suited her.
Farrell loved her social work course and later discovered that her mom had wanted to be a social worker. She has overcome obstacles and upon graduating next month, Farrell will immediately utilize some of her social work skills and lessons with AmeriCorps, the only federal agency for community service and volunteerism.
What obstacles have you overcome to reach your educational goals?
“I’ve struggled with mental health my entire life and have seen counselors who have helped me understand more about it. But my biggest struggle has always been substance abuse. That’s something I've learned more about in college, and social work has helped me. I always knew that I've struggled with substance abuse issues, but I think I said to myself that it was college and wasn’t a big deal since my friends were doing the same thing.
Then I met people in my social work classes and started talking to them about everything we discussed. That's when I started to realize this might be an issue and found Gamecock Recovery. The coordinator (Margaret Nevergoll, MSW ’16) is a social worker, and she became a role model.”
Why did you decide to serve with AmeriCorps?
“I was looking into programs that offer something right after graduation. One of my friends, who is a supervisor at the Leadership and Service Center, did AmeriCorps and loved it. Andre Grant, my first advisor at the college, had also previously told me about AmeriCorps, so it was an idea that was always in the back of my mind. I applied and accepted a position earlier this year.
I'll be working in Denver as student support for the City Year Program for one year. I’m excited to be in a school setting since I’ve never worked in one before. My dad attended college in Denver, so I’m looking forward to the overall experience and everything that comes with it.”
How can you utilize some of your social work skills and the experiences from the College of Social Work to the AmeriCorps Program?
“The biggest thing I've learned from the college is self-awareness and self-care, and those are two good skills to have in AmeriCorps. Most of the students I’ll be working with are low-income and have depressing stories that can take a toll on my mental health. Knowing this, I’m grateful for everything I've learned at the College of Social Work.”
Are you most interested in doing school social work or do you have other areas of interest?
“I wasn’t interested in school social work because of the negative stereotypes, but that changed when I took an elective class on that subject. That class was one of the factors that led me to apply for AmeriCorps. I think the City Year Program will help me figure out whether I want to pursue a career in school social work. I am also interested in substance abuse, but I'm excited to take a gap year and figure out what I want to do before I begin an MSW program.”
Why are social workers essential to society?
“I initially only heard the bad stereotypes of social workers through the media. But I eventually realized that the reality of social workers is different, and there are many options to explore through social work.
All the skills we’re learning, such as listening and speaking to others, can be applied in every aspect of the field. Social workers don't get enough credit with all the emotional skills we have and use. While we may still have biases, we are more aware of how to deal with and acknowledge those biases as social workers. Everyone can learn from us, but we want to educate rather than take charge of everything. Social workers are needed everywhere.”