June 30, 2022
(HOUSTON, TX) - MSW Student Royal Kelly has been selected to serve as a fellow for the Houston-Galveston Chapter of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship.
The fellowship is "dedicated to training the next generation of professionals to serve and empower vulnerable people to build healthier communities and live healthier lives."
Royal's fellowship project is with Any Baby Can in Austin, Texas.
We spoke with Royal about how this fellowship opportunity will expand her chosen career path.
Name: Royal Kelly
Program and Expected Graduation Year: MSW 2023
The mission of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship is to "prepare the next generation of professionals who will serve and empower vulnerable people to live healthier lives and create healthier communities." Why is this mission important to strive for in today's society?
The importance of public health, especially mental health, has taken center stage over the past decade. Those who pursue a career in mental health services at the GCSW must receive proper training to understand the complex issues and systemic environments that our clients deal with daily. To me, this is why the mission of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship is so critical. The fellowship offers clinical-minded students like me a valuable platform to do more than read about intervention planning, implementation, and evaluation for vulnerable populations - it prepares us to do so by empowering us to go through the process step-by-step with the help of mentors.
This opportunity allows us to network and learn from one another's academic, professional, and personal backgrounds. Whether we approach health from a medical, social work or public health perspective, each of us has unique experiences that, when combined, mirror what an integrated health environment will be like once we graduate.
What is your Fellow Project, and what do you hope to accomplish and address?
My Fellow project is a postpartum social support group for first-time mothers living below the poverty line in Central Texas. After speaking with my partner site, Any Baby Can, I heard about how socially isolated new moms can feel, especially those already negatively impacted by poverty and lack of access to resources. It was also clear that many of the social support outlets this population accessed were no longer available due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I wanted to create a program that would connect moms in the early stages of their motherhood journey to paths to receive social support and opportunities to build relationships with other mothers navigating similar challenges.
Each month we will be addressing the following topics:
- Expectations put on mothers
- The realities and challenges of early motherhood
- Navigating home and social life changes as a new mom
- Building bonds with your baby
- Developing healthy self-care habits
What do you hope to gain by the end of this experience?
I hope to gain a greater appreciation and understanding of the experiences that new mothers go through. I have a 2-year-old, but my experience as a mother is unique to me and my cultural and societal lens. I want to expand that lens to be a better future therapist to women, children, and families from all cultures and backgrounds. So many people who decide to start a family don't have the full support they need. I want to empower new families to feel confident and supported with the necessary tools to thrive as a family and cope with the inevitable stresses that accompany parenthood.
Likewise, as a Clinical MSW student, the fellowship offers me the opportunity to address one aspect of parenting: reducing social isolation and evaluating its effectiveness in improving family health outcomes. I believe this fellowship experience is integral to building my knowledge base with this population. Ultimately, I want to leave this experience knowing I helped fill a small gap in Austin's maternal health services, one that I hope is sustained by Any Baby Can long after completing my fellowship.
What has been a highlight of your time at the GCSW thus far?
I've enjoyed getting to know my advisor, the field team, and the fantastic support staff at the GCSW this past year. I have looked to them often for advice, guidance, and encouragement as I enter the last year of my degree program. As a remote MSW student living in Austin, they have been indispensable in ensuring that I am aware of my options and taking advantage of extracurricular opportunities like the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship.
Who is someone that inspires you, and why?
My grandmother and mother are my biggest inspirations. My grandmother provided life crisis assistance to individuals, couples, and families when I was young through our church. I grew up watching her help people in need, always providing a helping hand. My mom carries on this tradition today and commits most of her retirement years to assisting the elderly and housing insecure in her community. These women personify serving those in need, and their examples showed me how one person's actions could enrich the lives of so many others and led me to seek a similar career path. I am grateful to come from a long line of strong, service-oriented women.
What do you hope to accomplish once you graduate?
I firmly believe that by investing more in the mental health of children and families, we can counteract a majority of the issues and adverse outcomes these populations face.
Therefore, I want to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) to work therapeutically with children, adolescents, and families. I want to help children and adolescents develop healthy behaviors, navigate life's challenges, and create safe relationships with peers and adults. Likewise, I would like to educate and coach parents on family-centered practical strategies and skills that address their child's unique needs.
Anything else you would like to share?
Working with children and families experiencing challenges such as divorce, separation, dysfunction, neurodiversity, attachment, and behavioral issues are crucial aspects of the future practice and knowledge base I want to build my career around. I have personal experience in my own family with these areas, and it is this experience that led me to pursue graduate study in social work so that I may assist families experiencing similar situations.