Court of Carolina
Court of Carolina, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
by Lorrinda Janik, BSW
We all encounter moments in our lives that remain with us for a lifetime. The memories of the event are so vivid - we remember where we were, sounds, and even smells associated with the event. Often, these events are pivotal and affect our lives in ways we never dreamed.
In July 2014, I experienced such a moment. It changed my life and, subsequently, the lives of many others. It was a hot summer day on the North Carolina State University campus. As I surveyed the lush green lawn of the nearly empty Court of Carolina, the chimes of the Bell Tower began to toll. I remember thinking to myself, “If I felt a part of this university, that would be a comforting sound. But, since I don’t feel a connection here, it is just eerie.” The sound of the chimes made me feel oddly isolated and alone. Instantly, I knew I had to do something.
As a 49-year-old wife, mother, and grandmother, my needs were vastly different from those of a typical college student. I began networking with other nontraditional students and assessing their needs. We all yearned to feel included and have a sense of community.
In September 2014, I shared my concerns with Professor Barbara Zelter, who suggested we organize as a caucus under the Diversity, Recruitment, and Retention Committee. With seven other students, we created BackTrackers. Four months later, we became an organization.
Initially, the majority of our members were social work majors, but now we embrace students university-wide. Our organization evolved more quickly than the leadership anticipated because of such high demand. We struggle to meet needs because of our limited capacity as a student organization. However, we are making a difference in lives on a daily basis.
What sets us apart is our focus to provide peer mentoring, academic and emotional support, campus and community resources, and help our members re-acclimate to life as college students. We help each other learn how to balance the academic demands of classes and homework with job, family, and community obligations. We gather monthly for social events and to remind each other of the importance of self-care and having fun.
Our organization is a prime example of social work in action. Within the last year, the BackTrackers prevented four students from dropping out of college by providing support and resources. We count this victory as our most important accomplishment.
Society leads us to believe one person cannot make a difference. As social workers, we learn one person has the ability to change the world. I did not set out to change the world. My initial goal was to prevent others from feeling isolated and alone. But, as I put my newly acquired social work skills to work, I have changed my little corner of the world! Now, whenever the Bell Tower chimes, I get goosebumps, and the sound is amazingly comforting. I finally belong and feel that I am a part of this wonderful college community.
Lorrinda Janik is a recent BSW graduate of North Carolina State University. She will begin work on her Master of Social Work degree in the Advanced Standing Program at NCSU in May 2016.