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College of Social Work

Social Work Five with MSW Student Zariah Valentine

Second year MSW student Zariah Valentine, a Spartanburg, SC native and an honors graduate of Claflin College, is a first-generation student and member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Valentine aspires to become a pediatric therapist and children's advocate. She's also gaining traction as a rising social media star 

We caught up with her to find out more about her life as a future social worker. 

1. Can you share a bit about your journey as a first-generation college student and how that shaped your career aspirations? 

Growing up, I saw my parents work tirelessly to provide for my siblings and me. They always emphasized the importance of education, even though they didn't have the same opportunities themselves. Being the first in my family to go to college was tough. My parents wanted me to succeed, but they didn't always know how to navigate the process. They reached out to family members and local resources for help with things like financial aid and scholarships. Seeing my parents' determination and sacrifice made a deep impression on me. It made me realize the value of education and the importance of seizing opportunities. Their struggles inspired me to overcome obstacles and pursue my academic goals. As a first-generation college student, my experiences have shaped my career aspirations. I'm passionate about empowering others from similar backgrounds, advocating for equal access to education, and breaking down systemic barriers. Now, as I pursue my own academic and professional journey, I'm determined to give back and make a difference in the lives of others. I want to create a more inclusive and accessible educational environment for future generations. 

2. What inspired you to pursue a Master of Social Work degree, and how did attending an HBCU influence this decision? 

I'm eager to pursue a Master of Social Work degree because I want to become a therapist and advocate for affordable mental health care for marginalized communities. Attending an HBCU has strengthened this desire by surrounding me with people who share my experiences and encourage me to succeed. Seeing individuals who look like me thriving as therapists, social workers, and doctors has shown me that I can achieve my goals too. Attending an HBCU gave me a sense of community and drastically enhanced my self-efficacy.  

3. How do you envision using your MSW degree to make a positive impact in communities, particularly those that may be underserved or marginalized? 

Obtaining my MSW degree represents more than just personal achievement; it symbolizes an opportunity to effect real change within communities, particularly those that have historically been underserved or marginalized. As an advocate for the voiceless, my focus will be on leveraging my education and experiences to uplift and empower individuals within the Black community. 

One of the key avenues through which I envision making a positive impact is by amplifying the voices of those who have long been silenced or overlooked. Through community outreach, engagement, and advocacy, I aim to address systemic injustices and disparities that disproportionately affect Black individuals and communities. 

4. What advice would you give to other first-generation students considering pursuing a graduate degree, especially in social work or related fields? 

"Don’t give up!  As a first-generation student who has earned my bachelor's and is now pursuing my master’s, I never would’ve imagined I'd reach this point. Remember, after every storm, there's sunshine waiting. Keep pushing forward." 

5. Did you watch our National Championship game and how proud are you to be a Gamecock?  

I watched the game! I am so proud of the team for winning while remaining humble and demonstrating good sportsmanship.  

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.