Meet Katie Yarbro

2017 BSW Spirit of Social Work Award Winner

Katie Yarbro award

When Katie initially committed to Social Work she had no idea what she was getting herself into. Originally a psychology major, she soon began to realize that psychology was not the right area of study for her. She wanted to be a part of the change process and Social Work gave her the hands-on opportunity she was looking for.

Between coming to faith in high school and desiring a like-minded Christian community, social work seemed to be the perfect fit. Her desire to find a major that allowed her to be the hands and feet of Jesus was fulfilled through social work. Through this calling and her commitment to the GSSW, Katie is proud to meet the needs of others with compassion.

"It is the relational piece between students and professors that has been the most impactful at the Garland School of Social Work," Katie said. "They are always on your side and try to make you better. They want you to get the best value for what you are working toward. You get much more than you pay for."

This year, Katie interned at the Waco Housing Authority. While food insecurity is her field of interest, the experience of learning and growing outside of her comfort zone served her well.

"My internship required a lot of case management with clients and that is not necessarily my strong suit," Katie said. "During my work, though, I learned so much about myself. I learned that I am more macro-minded. I enjoy community planning and organizational-level work rather than one-on-one meetings, however both are important."

Katie managed a caseload of 20 clients ranging from youth to residents as old as 92. Work at the Housing Authority looks different day-to-day. She spent time meeting with her youth clients and helping them achieve their long-term goals. For visits with older clients, Katie would stop by to make sure they were doing okay and that they have everything they need. Older clients live alone and many are disabled, so they do not always have face-to-face interactions on a regular basis.

"My favorite program to work with was the family self-sufficiency clients," Katie said. "At the beginning of the term, they list their goals, both short-term and long-term, like remaining welfare free for a year and a half before completing the program. Watching families set and meet these goals was one of my favorite parts."

Gaining the trust of clients at the Housing Authority was the most challenging part. Looking at Katie, most clients have preconceived notions about who she is and what her life is like. Most clients categorize her as someone who has it all together and who has never faced problems like they do. However, that is not the case, Katie said.

"I have had to roll with some punches and those circumstances have shaped a lot of who I am, but that part of my life is not visible when you look at me," Katie said. "When I become comfortable with myself and realize that no one has all of the answers, I am best able to be present with a client and get them the help they need."

Katie not only looked for ways to grow her skills and capabilities through the course of her internship experience, she also sought out alternative ways to gain perspective on her client’s situations. Recently, she read Evicted by Matthew Desmond. The book focuses on how evictions, while not the cause, are a huge factor of poverty. She highly recommends the next intern read the book so they can begin their internship with a better understanding of the housing and poverty correlation.

"The majority of low-income Americans are paying upwards of 60% of their income on rent for inadequate housing," Katie said. "When they get behind on rent and are evicted, it becomes a downward spiral. The book grew my perspective and helped me become more compassionate for my role in the housing authority."

Independent and wise, Katie’s willingness to work through challenging situations and continuously learn are just a few of the reasons she embodies the spirit of social work. Katie invests in mentor relationships with her professors, gives 100% to everything she does and discerns God’s will every step of the way.

"God has been kind to transform my perspective while at the Housing Authority,” Katie said. “And winning this award is very humbling. At first I was wondering if they had the right person, but I feel truly honored."

Katie will continue her studies in the fall, working to earn her MSW at our Downton Houston Campus. Sic, 'Em, Katie!

Written by Madyson Russell, GSSW Mar/Comm Intern