Thriving in Serving Others
She is a local chapter president and state board member for the Jaycees and has helped raise more than $25,000 for child and family-serving agencies. She utilizes her experience as a teenage parent to publicly speak and connect adolescents with resources. She has also partnered with Novant Health and Habitat for Humanity. All this in addition to advancing a career in county social services.
Q: What influenced you to choose Walden to further your education?
A: I started my academic career at a local university. When it came time for me to look at getting my graduate degree there, I found they just didn’t fit my schedule. That’s how I found Walden. I researched the history and discovered that it was founded for adults needing the flexibility to meet their academic goals. It was the perfect scenario, and I knew it was exactly where I needed to be.
Q. Why earn two master’s degrees at Walden?
A. My first graduate degree from Walden taught me the importance of research and quality programs that serve others. When I finished that degree, I thought I was ready for the PhD program. I was interested in vicarious trauma in helping professions. As I navigated through the PhD program, I realized that I still had more to learn. I switched paths to the MSW program where I could gain more skills for clinical work and understanding how trauma impacts individuals. I am now earning my embedded trauma certificate, and I am motivated to continue field work in social work and later finishing my PhD through Walden.
Q: How did you come into the social work profession?
A: I feel like social work has always been a part of my life growing up. I would go to the food bank with my grandpa and always thought it was so cool to help. I began to look forward to doing that every Saturday with him. That enjoyment in serving others followed me into adulthood.
Q: Fast forwarding to today, what does your career look like and what do you enjoy the most about what you do?
A: I’ve supervised interns for the last two years, and I’m now receiving the opportunity to begin supervising my own team. What excites me the most is just being able to share the beautiful side of social work. I know the outlook can be negative sometimes and, in this role, I’ll be able to help my team members overpower those viewpoints by showing them all the things that social work can be.
Q: How do you intend to do that?
A: By showing them it doesn’t have to be bad. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel, and I think social workers have the capacity to be that light. People can be in their darkest places, and it’s the job of the social worker to show you what there is to look forward to.
Q: Beyond the profession, your volunteerism is amazing. Out of everything you’ve done in your community, what are you the most proud of?
A: Being a part of the Jaycees. I was a teen mom and at the time, you couldn’t tell me there was a way I could still go to college and fulfill my dreams. In my community, there’s an agency that services teen moms and dads by providing them with helpful tools to parent, give their child a strong start developmentally, and even make their doctor’s appointments. With the Jaycees, we get to support that agency through fundraising and have donated a lot of our proceeds there.
Q: What are some of the bigger challenges you’re currently facing or trying to solve for in your work?
A: Team morale. One of the things I’ve learned in my career is while social work can be difficult, it’s typically not the work that bogs you down. It’s the relationships within the workplace. My thesis addressed leadership being strong enough to recognize personality differences in the workplace and overcoming struggles within the team to function better for clients. I strongly believe that if you take care of your people, they will take care of their people.
Q: You mentioned your situation being nontraditional and time not being on your side prior to pursuing your master’s at Walden. What would you tell someone in a similar situation?
A: I always tell people you can do whatever you want; you might just have different obstacles. In these cases, it’s important to find what provides you with the utmost support of your goals. For me, Walden was that thing. This institution is passionate about ensuring people do good and are looking to strengthen their communities. Not only did I gain a lot from the curriculum, but the values Walden instills in its students has benefitted my own belief system as well.
Darrian Pelkey (right) receives Walden’s Citizenship Award from Board of Directors Chair Toni Freeman.
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