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Social Work Student Overcomes Obstacles to Earn Degree

UA Little Rock senior, Katherine Holtz, is a student in the School of Social Work. Photo by Benjamin Krain.
UA Little Rock senior, Katherine Holtz, is a student in the School of Social Work. Photo by Benjamin Krain.

Social work was an easy career choice for new graduate Katherine Holtz, whose difficult personal circumstances led to her decision.

“I was married to an alcoholic and addict for almost 10 years, and I lost myself,” Holtz said.

A nontraditional student from Beebe, Arkansas, she has graduated from UA Little Rock with a bachelor’s degree in social work.

“I wish I would’ve had somebody to guide me,” Holtz said. “One of the areas that is still lacking in society is help for addict’s families. In order to help people, especially kids, you have to be able to understand them. I wanted to be able to fill that gap for somebody.”

Earning a degree has been a long time coming for the mother of three children, two “bonus” children, and a grandson she gained guardianship over two days before her sophomore year. When she started at Arkansas State University-Beebe in 2019, she and her husband were waiting for her grandson to be born. Now, at three years old, he tries to help Holtz with her assignments.

“He added a couple lines to a paper once, and by a couple lines I mean a page and a half,” Holtz said. “Of course, that changed my reference page too. Most professors would have counted off, but mine said ‘tell him thank you and that I loved his work.’ I didn’t even notice he’d done it. I stepped away for one second, and he wasn’t even at the computer when I got back!”

Despite her 4.0 GPA, it hasn’t always been easy for Holtz. The second half of her freshman year was all remote due to COVID-19 restrictions, and she had to learn all the software used for online learning.

“My 18-year-old, who is now a freshman at Arkansas State University-Beebe, had to look over my first couple of papers and teach me how to use Google Drive,” Holtz said. “In high school we were using computers to learn how to type, so it’s very different now.”

School has been rewarding in all aspects, but Holtz notes the support of UA Little Rock’s social work student community as one of the most beneficial parts.

“May Atkins, coordinator for the Bachelor of Social Work program, said ‘find your people’ on the first day, and that has stuck with me,” Holtz said. “I’ve always had a hard time fitting in because I’m older and my kids are older, but I have found a handful of true friends who I can call at 2 a.m. and know they’ll be there for me. I have not had that sense of attachment outside of my family in a long time. To do social work, you have to have a heart for people and a heart for change, and I think that’s why we work so well.”

Holtz also gives credit to UA Little Rock Child Care Connections for help searching for and paying for quality child care. The program is available to eligible undergraduate students to help them continue their education without day care being a hindrance. She said she will continue using the services for as long as possible, especially now that she has been accepted into the advanced standing part-time Master in Social Work program.

Her children have helped a great deal throughout this process. Her daughter, who was on a traveling missionary team, came home to help Holtz with her grandson.“She stayed home and babysat him while I went to classes,” Holtz said. “I draw a lot of strength from my kids, and they’ve been my biggest cheerleaders.”