Amber Faison can’t remember a time that she hasn’t aspired to be a social worker. Given that the profession has had such a significant influence on her life, it’s easy to see why she’d pursue a practitioner’s path.
Faison, an MSW student in the School’s Advanced Standing program, first encountered social workers at age 12 when she entered North Carolina’s foster care system. They were kind and caring and seemed committed to helping her find an adoptive home, which she did after one year in care.
That Faison’s adoptive mother would further influence her interest in social work may have been a bit of fate. Although originally a math major, Jolee Faison went on to enroll in the School’s MSW program and graduated with her degree in 2010. Shortly thereafter, she was hired as a child welfare social worker in Wake County, where she has remained for the last eight years. Seeing her mother succeed in a profession she passionately embraced was the final proof Faison needed. Social work was her calling.
“I just remember when my mom was here and how much she was growing every day from what she was reading, learning, and doing” said Faison, a BSW graduate from East Carolina University. “It just made me want to pursue my MSW at UNC even more. I wanted to experience all that the UNC MSW program has to offer.”
Although eager to follow in her mother’s footsteps, Faison was still unsure if she could financially afford to enroll at UNC. Receiving the Joanna Finkelstein Gorham Scholarship eased those worries.
“I initially thought I would be able to work every weekend, but thinking back now, I’m not sure how that would have ever been feasible for me, especially as a student in the Advanced Standing program,” she said. “So, having that additional funding has been such a huge relief. It’s allowed me to put more effort into the work that I’m doing in the classroom and in the field.”
Interested in both health care and mental health, Faison enrolled this year in UNC’s PrimeCare program, which prepares social work students to work alongside physicians and nurses in hospitals, clinics, and other health care centers to treat individuals holistically.
As a PrimeCare student, Faison is interning with the Healthy Lifestyles program at Duke University School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics. The program works closely with children, adolescents and young adults who are overweight.
“A lot of them are struggling with being bullied at school or getting access to medical care that can assist them,” she said. “Part of my role is connecting them to people and resources that can help them manage their comorbidities and other daily struggles. I really love it.”
Faison will graduate in May and is hopeful that she’ll land a job with a hospital or in another health care setting. She credits her family, her fellow students and School faculty for getting her one step closer to the future she’s always dreamed about. She’s grateful for the generosity of donors as well.
“Getting an MSW is something I’ve been thinking about forever,” she said. “But this educational pursuit would not have been possible for me or for many others without the funding that so many of us have received. It’s so important, and I’m so thankful that donors are willing to support our social work program.”