Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): Social Work, 2022
Occupation: Community Program Coordinator
Company: Transformation Project
Location: Sioux Falls, SD
Describe your current professional or educational pursuits. (What does your position entail? What skills do you use in your current role? What are you hoping to accomplish with your education? etc.)
My current professional journey has been deeply rewarding. Having graduated in 2022, I stepped into the role of a Community Program Coordinator at the Transformation Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering the transgender community and fostering understanding among families and society. In this role, I employ a range of skills, including community outreach, program development, and advocacy, to provide vital support and education. One of the most fulfilling aspects is my involvement with interns, where I act as a mentor, imparting knowledge and nurturing future social workers. Additionally, I have the privilege of being a guest speaker in the very classes that once shaped my path, aiming to inspire and contribute to the growth of aspiring social workers. Through these efforts, I am driven by the belief that education will shape the future of this field, and my goal is to contribute meaningfully to this transformative process.
How did USD influence your personal and professional experiences following graduation?
During my time at the University of South Dakota (USD), my path took an unexpected turn that ultimately led me to a fulfilling career in social work. Like many students, I entered USD with a sense of direction, believing I knew exactly what I wanted to pursue. However, everything changed when I enrolled in the Intro to Social Work course, and the words of an exceptional professor reshaped my entire perspective. In that classroom, my professor uttered a statement that resonated deeply within me: "Social work isn't about sitting at a desk waiting for change, but instead, it is going out and making the change." These words struck a chord, challenging my existing notions and sparking a profound transformation. Suddenly, the concept of social work wasn't just a profession; it was a call to action, an opportunity to engage actively with communities and individuals to bring about meaningful, tangible change. This powerful realization prompted me to reevaluate my educational and career aspirations. I made the bold decision to switch my major to social work, embracing each course with unwavering passion. I was determined to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to effect positive change in society. The idea of being an active catalyst for change became my guiding principle.
Upon graduating, I embarked on a journey to embody the very spirit that professor had instilled in me. As a Community Program Coordinator at the Transformation Project, I dedicated myself to supporting and empowering the transgender community. My role involved not only providing vital assistance but also advocating for understanding and acceptance within the broader community. In addition to my work at the Transformation Project, I remained connected to my alma mater, the University of South Dakota. As a proud alumnus, I found fulfillment in mentoring and training new interns, sharing my experiences, and inspiring the next generation of social workers. The words of that professor continued to reverberate, reminding me that education is a potent tool for shaping the future of social work. Looking back, I am profoundly grateful for that pivotal moment at USD and the decision to embrace social work as my true calling. The professor's wisdom became the foundation upon which I built my career—a career dedicated to making a tangible, lasting impact on the lives of individuals and communities. In every step I take, I am reminded of the power of a single statement to ignite a lifelong passion for positive change.
How have you demonstrated success and influence in your profession and community?
Throughout my professional journey, I have demonstrated remarkable success and wielded substantial influence in my field and community, leaving an enduring impact through various initiatives. At the heart of my efforts are programs I've crafted and sustained, each designed to address distinct aspects of support and empowerment for the transgender community.
Notably, I've been a driving force behind impactful support groups that provide safe spaces for individuals to share their journeys, fostering a sense of unity and understanding. My commitment extends to the organization of dynamic community events that celebrate the vibrancy of the transgender community while educating the broader public about gender identity issues, thus nurturing empathy and acceptance.
Youth mentorship occupies a significant place in my contributions. By guiding and empowering young individuals, I am not only shaping their personal growth but also ensuring the perpetuation of advocacy endeavors for years to come.
Marty's Closet, a project I have nurtured, underscores my dedication to tangible support. Providing a week's worth of free clothing to those in transition, this initiative directly addresses immediate needs, promoting comfort and self-assurance during a transformative period.
Importantly, I have championed gender-diverse legislation as a key aspect of my advocacy efforts. By engaging with policymakers and advocating for equitable rights and protections, I am actively contributing to systemic change that benefits the transgender community on a larger scale.
Furthermore, my role as an alumna is an embodiment of my commitment to future social workers. This May, I was awarded Alumni of the Year at the Bachelor of Social Work cord ceremony. Through mentorship and training, I'm equipping aspiring professionals with the skills and insights needed to shape the future of social work. By guest speaking in classes, I share my journey and experiences, motivating students to recognize the power they hold in effecting positive change.
As I embark on the journey to establish South Dakota's pioneering 2SLGBTQAI+ Community Center, I am pushing boundaries further. This undertaking reflects my unwavering determination to create a physical space that not only provides essential resources and support but also fosters a deep sense of community and belonging.
In sum, my multifaceted endeavors, ranging from grassroots support initiatives to legislative advocacy and mentorship, collectively embody my commitment to fostering understanding, empowerment, and tangible change within the transgender community. Through each effort, I aim to contribute to a more inclusive, empathetic, and equitable society.