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Fatherhood offers MSW student direction to pursue social work

Fatherhood convinced James Moses that he needed to be a social worker. After years of contemplating other possible professions, including exercise and sports science, business administration, mechanical engineering, and communications, Moses said the moment he learned he had a son on the way was the moment he realized he needed to seriously evaluate his life and what he wanted professionally.

That decision also weighed heavy on him because he had lost so many of his own friends to drugs, violence, prison or death.

“So, when I learned I was having a son, I realized I wanted more for him and that I needed to do something that I loved, and I needed to make up my mind,” explained Moses, a final year student in the School of Social’s Work’s Advanced Standing Program, and a recipient of the Tannenbaum Student Support Scholarship.

Moses’ personal experiences played a big role in directing him toward work with at-risk youth and with individuals struggling with substance use and addiction. Originally from Birmingham, England, he moved to the states 13 years ago after the death of his father and to live with his mother who had arrived earlier with a visiting international teaching program. Those first years in Greensboro were tough, he said.

“My mother was working two and three jobs while going to school, and there were times when we really didn’t see each other—maybe one or two hours a day, if that,” he recalled.

As a result, Moses said he easily found trouble and “became involved in… less than savory activities.” However, as an adult, he has learned to appreciate those hard lessons as well as his own efforts to turn his life around.

“I feel I have a duty to give back and to support those who are in similar situations,” he said.

He is offering some of that assistance this year thanks to his field placement with the Greensboro nonprofit Youth Focus. Moses is assigned to the organization’s structured day and adolescent substance abuse programs, where he helps provide academic and therapeutic support services and counseling to middle and high school age youth in need.

He is also learning first-hand how government policies, such as the federal crackdown on prescription drugs, is affecting communities. For example, more and more youth are becoming addicted to heroin because the drug is cheaper and easier to buy than prescription opiates, he said.

Moses is equally troubled that addiction continues to be treated as a criminal issue in the United States, rather than as a health concern.

“So, we’re incarcerating people for possessing minuscule amounts of substances when what they need is the option to seek treatment,” he said. “I really want to work toward addressing that.”

Being selected this year for one of the Tannenbaum scholarships has certainly positioned Moses to pursue those goals. The $4,000 award, which supports students completing internships with agencies in Guilford County, has enabled Moses to return to school and still take care of his family and household.

“It’s definitely made life easier,” he said.

For more information about fundraising priorities and the impact of private giving at the School of Social Work, please contact: Mary Beth Hernandez, associate dean for advancement,