By Laine Zizka
“We just want to hear you and your voice,” mused Social Work major Abriana Terrell. “That’s the biggest thing that social workers have.”
While her passion for social work shines through, it’s her new position as the Bachelor of Social Work Representative in the National Association of Social Workers that showcases her dedication to the field.
According to TCU social work professor and Board President of the NASW Texas Chapter Dr. Lynn Jackson, the NASW is the professional organization that sets policies, standards, and the code of ethics for social work, as well as advocates for the profession. As part of the governing body of social work, the BSW position on the National Board is a prestigious one that drew in the ambitious Terrell as an applicant.
Though she was hesitant at first, Terrell remarked that Jackson guided her through the process step-by-step after Jackson’s classroom presentation sparked her interest.
“It was like applying to college…then we waited a good six to seven months,” Terrell said.
After all of the essays, resumes, and career goal questions, the tedious waiting process paid off, and she was elected to the position.
“I was impressed that she followed through in doing the application and in doing some things outside of class with Dr. Jennifer Martin that she volunteered to do,” said Jackson. “There are times when people get excited and say they will do something and they don’t – and she did.”
That dedication and passion secured her the position, a two year term that started in July. Since then, it has been an exciting adventure.
“I think it’s very exciting because I get to work around all of these people with so many connections and I get to network with them,” Terrell said.
With the opportunity to network comes the chance to learn and serve, as well as a launch pad for future endeavors.
“In all honesty, I want to use this to raise the wages [for social workers],” said Terrell. “I think – I hope – that puts me on a higher scale when it comes to competition because I do want to get a job – a great one.”
As much as Terrell is looking forward to this position as a resume builder, she credits TCU with developing not only her skills, but her ambition.
Terrell likens TCU to the love of her life.
“I feel like TCU has given me courage and made me want to take risks – the good risk – to get out there and put myself out there more,” Terrell said.
With plans to go to UTA to pursue her Master’s after graduation, Abriana aims to open her own practice and provide an education for more future social workers. While Terrell’s senior year is shaping up to be an eventful one, there is more than meets the eye, hidden behind her humbly charismatic exterior. Her love of social work is deeply rooted in her love of family and willingness to listen.
“I grew up in a single-parent home,” said Terrell. “[My dad] raised me and my sister by himself, so I think that’s probably why I want to work with families and groups, because my mom wasn’t in my life.”
Since then, Abriana, who is a TCU Community Scholar and an intern with Girls Inc., has had a love of helping others, seen across her personal life and in her campus involvement.
“She will listen with an open heart and with an open mind and she’s going to try to help them get to a better place,” said Timeka Gordon, TCU’s director of Inclusiveness & Intercultural Services and Community Scholars Program as well as a mentor to Terrell. “If they are feeling hopeless or helpless, she is going to be their strongest advocate.”
Being an advocate certainly speaks to Terrell’s perception of the job of a social worker.
Jackson also speaks to that quality of social work as “a goal to assist people in making change and to stand up for people who don’t have anyone else to do that for them.” It is that social justice characteristic that is critical to being a professional social worker.
“Instead of judging them, instead of making them feel like they aren’t anything, social workers are the person who listens,” said Terrell. “We are the comfort blanket.”
Terrell’s drive was a trait evident even on the first encounter. Gordon recalls their first meeting before the 2014 Community Scholar interviews, Abriana running up to her and asking to be challenged and demanding high expectations – early signs of Terrell’s genuine passion, and hard-working attitude.
“I don’t have a favorite,” Gordon said. “But, what I will say, there are students that just leave an imprint on you. She is a Community Scholar that has left an imprint from day one.”
That imprint can be felt in far-reaching places such as the minority community in which Terrell serves. Gordon believes in the philosophy of showing the successes of those in your position.
“There are little girls that have looked up to her, that now say ‘Even if it’s not TCU, I can go to college because Abriana did it,’” said Gordon.
As bright as Abriana’s future in mentoring and social work looks, her mentors say it is her exceptional character that will serve her well in her new position.
“Humility is all over her, she is dressed and clothed in it,” said Gordon. “As long as she continues to walk in that, she is going to help so many people.”