by Shaun W. K. Connors
Although I’ve known from a young age that I want to help people, and have found that it comes very naturally to me, I stumbled into this journey of becoming a social worker completely by accident. As a child, I did not plan to or dream of becoming a social worker; rather, as I have traveled along my life’s path, I have felt increasingly that social work is my calling. Many of my experiences have shaped my worldview and guided me toward a career in social work: growing up in a home where dysfunction and addiction were the norm; the suicide of my closest friend, whom I considered my brother; and my experiences as a Queer Transgender man.
I can look back now and think about certain moments that were pivotal in my realization that I am a natural helper and should pursue something like social work. The earliest and most important memory I have of helping and knowing that it felt “right” is second grade. I was seven years old and my school had a program that paired kindergarteners with second graders. The idea of the buddy program was to foster positive school community, create prosocial peer relationships, and help kindergarteners develop their reading skills. My buddy, a shy quiet girl named Maggie, loved the color orange. I’m naturally an introvert, so the first few times we were together, we just sort of did our craft activity quietly. As the year progressed, Maggie’s social skills grew immensely and she blossomed into her naturally extroverted personality. She was engaging, gaining confidence in her reading, and clearly becoming a lot more comfortable within her classroom community. At the end of the year, I was moving on to another school, so our teachers threw a celebration party so we could all say goodbye and bring closure to our relationships. We exchanged cards describing how we thought each other grew as the year went on. Hers simply said, “Thank you,” with a picture of the two of us holding hands. It felt so “right” to be able to help Maggie realize her full five-year-old potential, and I hope to continue to be honored with opportunities to help others meet theirs, as well.
I want to be a social worker because it feels like the profession where I believe I can effect the most change in the world. So many people have told me that I won’t make large salaries, that I’ll be overworked, that I shouldn’t judge people and take their kids away. They have judged me for being a “bleeding heart liberal,” that I’m “noble” for my desire to work in a helping profession, and that I’m a “far better person” than they are... but the truth is I just have a burning desire to make an impact on the world that will leave it a teeny bit better than when I got here.
Shaun W. K. Connors is a social work student at Plymouth State University. He is a "mountain walkin’, adventure seekin’, transguy who somehow found his way into social work" with hopes of working with LGBTQ+ youth.