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UA Little Rock Social Work Month: LaKendra Mackey

LaKendra Mackey
UA Little Rock celebrates Social Work Month by recognizing senior social work student LaKendra Mackey.

UA Little Rock is recognizing outstanding social work students in celebration of Social Work Month this March. The next student to be featured in this installment is senior and first-generation college student LaKendra Mackey

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I’m from Texas. I am a mother, veteran, sister, daughter, and various other titles. I love anime, BTS (K-Pop), and Asian dramas. I enjoy trying new foods and learning how to overcome my numerous apprehensions. I joined the BSW program in Fall 2019 and hope to graduate in May 2021 with honors. 

What made you decide to study social work at UA Little Rock?

I have been through some crazy life hardships. At first, I was either in denial or ashamed about the situations I found myself in. I had to humble myself and ask for assistance. I reached out to the Veteran Hospital at Fort Roots, and a social worker asked me, “Why are you here?” I just let it all out. She does not know this, but she saved me that day. She hugged me, and I realized I hadn’t had a hug in so long. My mood changed, and I felt like I could see the sun rising. 

At the Veteran Day Treatment Center in Little Rock, two other social workers have been helpful in my journey with affordable housing. They have been very encouraging in my decision to pursue social work. 

These three ladies always pushed me to go forward. Whenever I became distant, they rallied their resources and made sure to involve me in life again. Because of the struggles I was facing, I realized that there are probably others like me and that I want to help them like I have been receiving help. The whole pay it forward. 

What are your plans after you graduate?

I want to get my MSW degree. I have applied for a concurrent degree plan with the Clinton School of Public Service for the Masters of Public Service. I am still feeling my way around. Whatever avenue I decide on to pursue my MSW, I plan to spend my time learning and exploring all aspects of becoming the best social worker. 

March is Social Work Month, and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) announced that the theme this month is “Social Workers are Essential.” Tell us why you think social workers are essential.

Social workers are everywhere. They are deep in the trenches with nurses and doctors. They’re at schools and daycares, at the nursing homes, hospice, hospitals, and other places providing resources and comfort. They are standing on the sidelines voicing their opinions and advocating for people. Social workers are working with the homeless population and giving them the necessities to combat the spread of COVID-19. 

They do this because social workers get the job done. They receive the action plan, and they execute it. Social workers are soldiers for humanities. 

How has studying social work affected you as a person?

Social work humbles you to a certain point. I am not so quick to judge people anymore. When I catch myself thinking stereotypically, I am quick to self-reflect and call myself out on the act. Social work makes you aware of the environmental, social, mental health, and financial aspects of a situation. 

Who have been some of your mentors or supporters throughout your time in the program?

My family has always been my biggest supporters. My social work classmates have been very involved with cheering me on and demanding I reach for the stars. Vocational rehabilitation, Trio SSS, and SADI have, in their own way, allowed me to taste greatness, and I have acquired a taste for it now. 

Also, UA Little Rock has been very supportive of me as a non-traditional student. I can truthfully say that when I wanted something, they provided me with the resources to thrive. 

What advice do you have for people thinking of majoring in social work?

You need to be able just to listen and then, after the session, you write. I feel like I have written about six great works of literature to rival Shakespeare. If you can’t actively listen, this may not be for you. If you detest writing, this is not for you. 

The main question is why do you want to do social work? If the answer is that you enjoy helping people, you don’t need a social work degree to help. Be honest with yourself on why you want to do social work.