Volunteering has been such a big part of Tricia Collins’ life, it could almost be mistaken for her career. So when the St. Petersburg, FL wife and mother was choosing a program for graduate school and saw that an online Master's degree program in Social Work would allow her to bring her love of giving back into her professional life, "it just seemed like a natural fit,” she says.
Volunteering has been such a big part of Tricia Collins’ life, it could almost be mistaken for her career. So when the St. Petersburg, FL wife and mom of five was choosing a program for graduate school and she realized the MSW@USC online degree program would allow her to bring her love of giving back into her professional life, "it just seemed like a natural fit,” she says.
Tricia decided that in order to have the impact she really dreams of, she needed some more formal education. “I have a ton of volunteer experience in a lot of different settings with different populations,” she explains, “but formal education lends a kind of credibility that has opened the final doors.”
She proudly talks about the job offer she has already received, months earlier than expected. She attributes her success in the job market to her participation in the MSW@USC program. “It’s been very worthwhile,” she confides.
Tricia volunteering in Pretoria, South Africa
The Path to Understanding Others
Tricia frankly states that volunteering was the most influential factor in her decision to go to school for her MSW degree. She talks about how volunteering shaped her view of her city and her community. “I finally thought at one point, ‘Why don’t I make this official?’”
Volunteering is a two-way street for Tricia. Not only has she been able to give back to the most vulnerable in her community, but she has learned a lot and been enriched in the process. “I think volunteering gives you a sense that you can’t jump to conclusions,” she says, “because you can’t possibly really understand a group of people, and labeling them only closes you off to what they have to teach you.”
“People are not the sum parts of their misfortune,” Tricia continues. “It’s quite the opposite – people are the sum parts of their strengths…. You’re not there to make judgments, and you’re not there to solve people’s problems, but just to encourage the things that you see working.” And now, with her MSW degree, Tricia can do that professionally.
Building Relationships Together
She began the program in September of 2012, and will graduate in December 2013 with a concentration in Mental Health.
Even with a demanding school and internship schedule, Tricia still makes time to volunteer. She’s currently in her seventh year as a Guardian Ad Litem, and is doing street outreach on Friday nights to women coming out of the commercial sex industry with a residential faith-based ministry called Created. She’s also passing her love of volunteering on to her five children – they have been on numerous volunteer vacations as a family to places like Haiti, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Tricia believes there’s something special about giving your time and skills for free. “When you are getting your hands dirty with other people to solve a problem, not because you’re getting paid but because you want to do it, the relationships are quite different,” she explains.
So Tricia will continue volunteering, and continue teaching her kids to do so, even as she dedicates her professional life to making a difference, too. “It’s great to do the little one-time things, but I think the greatest impact comes through relationships built over time. The greatest social impact,” she says, “is in staying the course.”
- Get started today. Search for opportunities to volunteer in social work.
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