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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

Finding Inspiration in Her Hometown: The Views of One Aspiring Social Worker

Joe Houghton /

March is National Social Work Month. In Springfield, schools are joining to honor people who commit their lives to assist others. KSMU’s Kathryn Eutsler profiles an undergraduate within Missouri State University’s Social Work program.

Nicole Carpenter grew up in the Queen City, and says she developed a passion to help others in her own community.

“As I got older, I just really wanted to choose something that I could help people every day…I did a program in Springfield called ‘Teen Court,’ and that was something that really helped me to open my eyes and see the rest of the community and see how much help is still needed,” Carpenter says.

Years after completing Teen Court, in which volunteers serve on juvenile court juries, Carpenter continues to be heavily involved in Springfield. She is currently completing her practicum at Legal Services of Southern Missouri.

Working as a victim advocate and paralegal in the Domestic Violence Unit, she describes her job as very client centered. After a client has been accepted through the program’s application process, Carpenter offers council.

Her assistance includes forming a safety plan, connecting the victims to find safe shelter, helping with children involved, and attending court to ensure emotional support for the client.

“Just helping them feel more comfortable and relaxed during that time, because [the hearing process] can be traumatic as they are reliving everything,” Carpenter explains.

The job has been a challenge, Carpenter says, explaining that being immersed in many difficult situations as an undergraduate student sometimes feels overwhelming.

Still, Carpenter loves it. She finds inspiration in her clients and continues to find inspiration in the Springfield community.

“It’s just so awesome to see [the clients] emerge on their own and to be so courageous and go through this fight, and I just enjoy getting to do that with them and seeing them succeed. That is pretty awesome.”

Carpenter, currently one of approximately 120 undergraduate social work students at MSU, says the sky as her limit upon graduation in May. She hopes to continue on to join the 80 grad school candidates at Missouri State, enthusiasm evident in her voice as she explains the program’s emphasis on local families.  

“Families are the basis for our community; being able to be a part of that and make sure Springfield families are being strengthened is something I’m really excited about.”

Dr. Mary Ann Jennings is a professor in MSU’s Department of Social Work, and says enthusiasm like Carpenter’s is what Social Work Month celebrates.

“It’s not often a job where people that you help turn around and say ‘thank you very much for what you just did.’ Social workers in terms of society are not recognized for the word that they do. March is an opportunity to celebrate the good work and the hard work that we do,” says Jennings.

Missouri State has teamed with Evangel University for several Social Work Month events, including the annual ethics workshop this Friday.

Other events follow throughout the month of March. More information can be found here.

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