By Vicki Marsh Kabat
Tiffany Purnell, BSW (August) 2009, has been mentoring two girls from an abusive background for seven years. She met them through her inner-city church in St. Louis, Missouri, when she was in high school and she continues to be a part of their lives even as she completes her Baylor undergraduate degree.
Is it any surprise she chose social work as her profession? It wasn't to her. She came to Baylor knowing she would go into the BSW program, and with some good social work skills already in hand.
"I truly understand the importance of presence when someone's going through hard times"
"More than anything, I really learned to listen when I was mentoring the girls and not necessarily knowing what to say," Tiffany says. "I truly understand the importance of presence when someone's going through hard times."
In her internship with MHMR Crisis Center, she is working with individuals who are experiencing two extremely difficult circumstances – a crisis and a mental health diagnosis, which at the Center includes schizophrenia, bipolar and depression. Yet she describes this experience as a "blessing."
"When you combine both of these very difficult situations, it causes you to look at the person more holistically, to think outside the labels and stereotypes of each condition. It's been an awesome experience to learn how to work with both."
Tiffany doesn't look for the easy path. She asked to be placed in an internship with a population she had not yet experienced. When she graduates in August, she plans to join the Peace Corps, again seeking an experience in a culture with which she is not familiar, in Latin America.
"I want to be culturally diverse. I see the Peace Corps as my opportunity to serve. You go to college with the expectation of learning, but I want to take time to serve as well. It will give me a different understanding of cultures and people," she says.
"The faculty are truly concerned about you, but they also really want to develop you not just as a leader, but as a world leader."
Tiffany says she has loved the program since her Intro class, and even though social work is a challenging field, she believes the rewards will be worth it. "To be able to bless someone else is such a big thing," she says. "It takes your heart fully dedicated to a group of people, but also a commitment to know yourself well so that you can serve effectively."