Last evening (May 3rd, 2012 for archival purposes) I had both the honor and privilege to attend and participate in the Pinning and Hooding ceremony for the graduates of the University of North Carolina – Pembroke’s, Bachelors and Masters of Social Work program.  My participation was the culmination of almost five years effort when I was able to pin the Social Workers pin to my wife’s dress.  I was then honored to hear some bigwig in the social work realm read out the preamble to the Social Workers Code and hear the graduates shout as a final exclamation of “YES I WILL” to complete their swearing in.

I am most proud of my little graduate.  She is what colleges and universities consider a non-traditional student.  She started her college journey later in life, starting with the local community college to complete her Associates degree, moving forward to a private institution for just one semester before finally settling on UNCP as her final stop on the education trail.  Very late in her education journey she elected to temporarily abandon her initial goal to pursue social work through the Masters level, electing instead to double major with a Criminal Justice degree.  She managed all of this while somehow keeping our children safe, sound and fed, often times without any direct input from me as I was deployed half a world away.  So on top of the stress of her academic requirements, a teen boy and our little princess growing from toddler to 1st grader, she also contended with the stress of the unknown and the ever-nagging fear for my life and safety.  Tomorrow she will walk across the stage, Summa Cum Laude. I attribute this to her honey badger-like work ethic and desire to see her dreams come to fruition.

I have learned a little bit about the social work profession over the last couple of years.  I know we hear an awful lot about the things that have gone wrong, particularly when it comes to children.  We hear about the over-burdened workers and the high attrition rate in the field.  We also hear about the differences in policy from state to state.  What we do not hear of very often is the multitude of other ways social workers shape the lives of their “clients” outside of disadvantaged or abused children, nor do we hear much of the varying levels or certifications needed to work in different capacities across the spectrum of social work.  It is a vast and ever changing field that requires regular continuing education in order to be effective.

Something that crossed my mind as I looked at around 50 or so proud graduates between the two degree levels, the number of graduating social workers is not even as high a number as the case loads a social worker will maintain in some cities and counties across the nation.  There simply is just not enough of them, yet the 50 or so who swore to uphold their Code of Ethics did so knowing they will be over-worked and under-paid in a profession with one of the highest burnout and attrition rates.  The graduates span ages and socioeconomic backgrounds.  Each and every one of them will move forward and do for their clients as best they can.

I am most proud of my graduate.  I wish her fellow graduates the best as they move forward putting their hearts and souls into a job that in the public sector is mostly thankless and successes are measured one client at a time.

Congratulations UNCP Class of 2012 Social Work and Criminal Justice Students!!

  1. Judy says:

    This really made me teary. I’ve known Geri, in one way or another, since we were 5 and she’s always been tenacious, hard working, and caring — perfect attributes for a social worker. I am honored to call her a friend.


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