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MSW Student, Jamaya Walker, Provides Support at Emergency Shelter



May 26, 2020

(HOUSTON, TX) - MSW Student Jamaya Walker currently serves as a Youth Care Worker at Parks Youth Ranch that is an emergency shelter for youth ages 7 – 17 who are at-risk of homelessness or are part of the DFPS/Foster Care System.

The Parks Youth Ranch was established with the intention of "providing emergency shelter, counseling, and life-changing services to abused and neglected youth aged 7-17."

We recently caught up with Jamaya Walker to discuss the challenges COVID-19 has posed to children who need assistance and how the GCSW has prepared her for work. 


When did you being working at the Parks Youth Ranch?

I began working at Parks Youth Ranch right before the pandemic in February.

What was one of the biggest reasons why you began working at the Parks Youth Ranch?

One of the biggest reasons I began working at PYR is because I have a passion for working with at-risk youth. I enjoy being able to work hands-on with youth who are deemed “troubled.” I have a specific interest in trauma. Working at PYR, I engage with a diverse group of children who have all endure traumatic events that have altered their life at a young age. By working at PYR, I can teach life skills in a residential setting, implement social work theories that I am learning in school, and gain both Clinical and Marco experience.

Who inspires you to continue to do the work you’re currently doing while attending?

I would say my mentor Ms. Rebecca Cox inspires me to work currently while attending school. Ms. Cox was my field supervisor for my field internship, and she is a brilliant woman who is full of knowledge, and I aspire to be like her. Working with her this year, I learned a variety of tools and began to understand how much work it takes to be a social worker. I want to take every opportunity I can to enhance my social work skills in different settings between academics, my internship, and working I can use what I learn at the GCSW in more than one way.

What are some of the challenges you face due to the pandemic?

During the pandemic, one of the challenges is figuring out what I can do to help better those in need who are impacted during this time. Watching the news and working at an emergency shelter with youth who have no place to go has opened my eyes even more to the work America needs to do to ensure the safety and health of everyone living in America despite citizenship. I have been challenged to look at my privileges, such as being able to work, and having all the necessities I need and mapping out how I can use my privilege to help those in need during this time. I live in 3rd ward with a large homeless population outside of work and school I have been able to provide meals to homeless individuals in the area and provide them with a face mask that my mother helped me order. I purchased a box of 100 to give to those in need who are unable to help themselves.

What are some things you would like those who do not work in youth services to understand better?

I would like those who do not work in youth services to understand that the youth are seeking genuine support. Many of the youth I work with have endured many traumatic events that have profoundly altered their development.  Frequently they are battling with issues mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually and with the right guidance and support, these youth can blossom into resilient adults. Working in youth services requires you to look through multiple lenses to better understand the behavior of the child.

How has the GCSW equipped you to do your current line of work?

The GCSW has equipped me to work in my current work line by giving me the tools to understand my privileges so that I can better serve others. As a woman of color, it is often hard for me to understand my privilege and how I can help others, the GCSW has opened my eyes to see the world in another in a different light. Without understanding your privileges, beliefs, and biases, you cannot effectively help anyone; the GCSW requires students to think profoundly about each area so that they know how to navigate social work successfully. I would also say the GCSW’s commitment to diversity has equipped me for employment. Because of the amount of time we spend discussing and presenting on other cultures, I have a better knowledge of how to engage with clients and their families. Throughout my second year in the program, I know that the GCSW will give me tools and allow me to enhance my gifts so that I can be a successful agent of change.