by Holli H. Rash
Social work, to many, represents an industry wrapped around the poor, providing them with services so that they can meet the basic living needs to survive. To me, however, it serves as a productive outlet for me to channel my passion for helping others. It’s the job of the generalist social worker to work with a variety of clients to provide individualized services to help the client meet the basic needs to live in our current society. The generalist social worker also thinks critically and is well aware that every client’s needs will be unique. So it’s our job to assess each situation and find a solution, be it with public welfare policy assistance, rehabilitation, therapy, consultation, or something else.
Becoming a social worker means that we know that what we do may never amount to a high salary, or a vast privilege of power and prestige, but we work in the human services industry because we have an ambition to help others who are at a disadvantage in life chances and social mobility. Those going into the social work field have done so from facing certain experiences in their lives and possessing certain characteristics that greatly contribute to their success in the field.
From my perspective, I’ve lost many loved ones at a young age. I endured the divorce of my parents as an adolescent, and I’ve witnessed poverty and the effects it has had on children from my own hometown. Many children from my hometown come from poor families and difficult home-life situations, and as these children grew into teenagers and young adults, they rebelled. Some became involved in the juvenile justice system, developed substance use disorders, or dropped out of high school. I’ve witnessed the cyclical transformation of these children who grew to become the exact image of their parents, often leading unsuccessful and abusive lives. It’s these witness accounts that drove me to pursue a career within the social work profession.
I’ve seen, endured, and overcome many experiences and obstacles in my own life, and from that I’ve grown to be passionate about what I do. I have gained resilience, which I believe to be the most important attribute a practitioner can possess within the human services. Some may argue that having gone through traumatic experiences can cripple you from maintaining professional composure if placed in certain situations, but I argue that with every inch of my being, because I have never been a stronger, more passionate, and caring woman than I am now from conquering the hard times that have arisen in my life. I believe that as long as you know your limits, you can use the resilience and empathic understanding to your advantage.
I’ve devoted my entire life so far to serve as a role model for children to turn their lives around. I’ve volunteered for years, because I believe it’s not only my civic duty, but also my calling to help my community and those in poverty to the best of my ability. I’ve dedicated myself to pursue a career in social work because I believe it’s my calling, my sole purpose to serve as a contributing member of society. It’s not something to be simply described in black and white, but if I were to try, this is how I would best describe my determination to pursue this field: some individuals encounter certain moments in their life, where everything they’ve overcome makes sense, as if every experience they’ve ever had in their life has led them to this very moment.. I started exploring possible career paths, and when I stumbled upon the social work profession, everything just “clicked.” Every difficult experience and all the hard times that I faced and conquered just so happened to lead me to this very moment, the epiphany that made it all worth it.
This is what I was meant to do, social work, and when I started volunteering and interning in the field, it only verified that this was the profession I wanted to do for the rest of my life. To me, social work isn’t as much of a profession as it is a complete and inexplicable part of who I am.
Holli H. Rash is an undergraduate social work student at Northern Michigan University and is pursuing a future career in child and family welfare and policy. "Social work is not just my major, it's my passion," says Holli.