Social Justice

4 University of Massachusetts Global social work success stories sure to inspire

February 07, 2019

social work success stories

Social workers dedicate their careers to helping people overcome challenges that can negatively affect their lives. They’re compassionate. They want to make a difference. If you possess these traits, it’s no wonder you’re considering this particular career path.

Social work, while highly rewarding, can take its toll on the empathetic professionals on the frontlines. But with the right combination of passion, education and support, social workers can achieve sustainable success in a multitude of different environments and circumstances.

Having adequate support is particularly important, and some educational institutions prioritize it from the beginning. University of Massachusetts Global offers unwavering assistance and ample resources to students, alumni and faculty. Check out the following University of Massachusetts Global social work success stories to get a sampling of what your future could hold.

4 social work success stories stemming from University of Massachusetts Global

We’re proud of these individuals, who have accomplished a lot in their lives—and their careers. Let their stories inspire you to set the stage for your own achievement.

1. Turning personal struggle into a life calling

University of Massachusetts Global graduate Joey Reay spent decades in a difficult battle with drug and alcohol addiction. The pieces in her life finally began to align when, after achieving sobriety, she secured a job at a drug and alcohol treatment center. It was during her time there that she discovered her own passion for helping others struggling with addiction.

In hopes of learning more about the mental health aspect of addiction recovery, Reay earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She graduated in 2016 and has since become a mental health case manager working for a private practice. Reay also plans to obtain a Master of Social Work degree at University of Massachusetts Global. As she prepares to further her education, Reay reflects on what she’s learned thus far.

“Going back to school taught me more about the diagnosis of mental health issues, patterns and fundamentals,” she explains. “It helped me to learn compassion and gain a better understanding of why these things [happen].”

What are her long-term career goals? “My biggest motivation is to reach kids and give them the coping skills that they need to go through any sort of emotional turmoil,” Reay says. “To help them find self-worth, self-value and self-esteem all on their own.”

2. Finding inspiration from family

Manuel E. Mestas always struggled in school—it became clear why when he was diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult. There were other struggles, as well. Mestas grew up in the San Joaquin Valley with an alcoholic stepfather and a mother who became physically disabled after being hit by a drunk driver. Unemployment affected his local community as he tried to make a living as a farm worker.

Mestas initially considered University of Massachusetts Global to be his last chance to graduate from college. After receiving one of the first Alumni Association Scholarships, he was met with the support he needed to overcome the hurdles in his way. The combination of assistive technology and the patient, thorough guidance of an executive coach empowered Mestas to turn his career dreams into a reality.

After earning his degree, Mestas plans to work with some of the most defenseless and vulnerable members of our society, including children in the foster care system and elderly men and women in hospice care. He’s long wondered about the difference a skilled social worker could have made in his parents’ lives and hopes to become that kind of change agent in his own social work practice one day.

“I find great meaning and fulfillment in somehow helping others get a better opportunity to succeed in life and have a better quality of life,” he says. “Even though my parents passed away many years ago, finishing my degree would make them so proud of me.”

Considering becoming a social worker?

Explore more about the field and its different career paths.

3. Continuing a 25-year legacy

Long before she began teaching at University of Massachusetts Global, Dinah Martin’s human services career carried her to a number of different settings. But the goal was always the same: to help people overcome their challenges. For a time, she taught independent living skills to high school students with special needs. She also helped welfare recipients gain valuable qualifications to help them boost their prospects when completing job searches.

Martin spent time as a social worker handling child welfare cases for Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services. Her main priority was to either help reunite children living in foster or kinship care with their biological parents or find them permanent placement with new families. Martin and her husband later became foster parents themselves, parenting more than a dozen teenage boys. Her career clearly led her to great achievements—inside and outside of the office.

“I think I brought to the situation the ability to see strengths where a lot of people just see weaknesses,” Martin reflects. Celebrating small wins, she says, can encourage people to continue down a successful path.

After retiring, Martin began teaching courses at University of Massachusetts Global’s Lacey campus. Her expertise enables her to cover topics like human behavior, social policy, organizational leadership, human resources and victim advocacy.

4. Continuing to learn after a fulfilling military career

Most individuals attending University of Massachusetts Global can be classified as “nontraditional students.” But even among this segment, Bill Kieffer’s path through higher education is unique. Upon joining the Air Force at age 35, he’d already earned a master’s degree in social work and a Ph.D. In fact, Kieffer was drawn to the Air Force because of his passion for social work.

“I saw the opportunity that the Air Force had for clinical social work,” he says. “I loved that I could work in my profession, serve my country and see the world. What an opportunity!”

After two decades of dedicated service, Kieffer retired. When he found out he still qualified for education benefits from his time in the military, the lifelong learner excitedly headed back to school. University of Massachusetts Global’s history of providing educational support to military service members and veterans appealed to Kieffer. He attended classes at UMass Global’s Travis Air Force Base campus.

As he works toward a second bachelor’s degree, Kieffer has been enjoying courses in criminal justice and history—subjects that have supplemented his extensive social work experience.

Today, Kieffer serves as a permanent deacon at St. Michael’s Catholic Parish at Travis and also helps with pastoral support and patient visits at the David Grant Medical Center. And he also works with families who are dealing with criminal justice or gang-related issues.

“Education at UMass Global is a treasure waiting for people to partake,” Kieffer says. “There’s nothing more effective than getting an education in a field you’re interested in and passionate about.”

Start writing your social work success story

From undergraduate students to revered faculty members, University of Massachusetts Global’s social work community successes are vast. These individuals found the support they needed—and they thrived.

If you think you could benefit from the real-world curriculum, flexible format and esteemed educators that comprise University of Massachusetts Global’s social work program, consider making your next move. If you don’t yet have a bachelor’s degree, visit the Bachelor of Arts in Social Work page for more information about the options that await.

If you already have a bachelor’s degree—even if it’s in a different field—you can still transition to this fulfilling career path. To learn more, visit the Master of Social Work page.


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