Caroline Center Class 50 graduate Jamire McElveen-Merrick's story reminds us that life's journey almost never forms a straight line. Its complex paths of discovery and choice, however, oftentimes lead us straight to the place of our passion.
As a 2009 graduate of Poly high school (Baltimore Polytechnic Institute), Jamire was in her element studying the sciences and engineering. Today, with her MSW in hand from Morgan State University, Jamire is ready to launch her new professional career as a social worker.
Jamire says, "the staff at Caroline Center played a major role in my inspiration to pursue [my] journey in social work."
Here's the rest of the story in Jamire's own words:
I attended an engineering and science-based high school, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, so it was natural that I began my college career in an engineering-related major. In 2009, I started studying Interior Design at the Community College of Baltimore County-Catonsville. During my freshmen year, I became pregnant and missed a semester due to illness from the pregnancy. In 2010, I came back to CCBC at the beginning of my third trimester to continue with Interior design. Fortunately, I delivered my son during winter break and came back to finish up finals. But I was overwhelmed with being a young mother and trying to adjust to my new life, so it reflected in my grades. I also began to develop a lack of interest in the field and thought that it was time for me to just focus on supporting myself and my child. A year later, I took a break from school to attend a non- profit organization called the Caroline Center to become financially independent for myself and child.
I heard about the Caroline Center when I was doing youth works at DHR and another young lady that was working there was leaving to attending the Caroline center. I was the age of 16/17 then and became pregnant at 18, so I waited two years for my opportunity to attend. The agency provides Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Geriatric Nursing Assistant (GNA) training, as well as Pharmacy Technician training for free to women 20 years of age or older; I decided to take on the pharmacy technician training. This organization not only provides specified job training but provides a holistic approach to help the women maintain success in multiple aspects of their lives. Financial courses, as well as individual and group therapy sessions are some of the additional perks provided. Techniques on how to deal with stress at home and in the work environment are given, as well as methods of self-care. Other helpful resources provided are resume writing tips and connections to other resources to help the women be successful during their journey.
As I reflect back on my earlier college years, I did not notice my passion to help others when I created a Young Mother’s Discussion Board on Facebook as a class project in my English 101 class. This discussion board still thrives today with over 400 members. Each member benefits from post about jobs, giveaways on clothing or baby furniture and activities to do with the children or the whole family. We share resources, experiences and give suggestions to one another when dealing with certain circumstances. I created it being that I was young and pregnant at the time feeling lost and searching for support myself. I also recall taking a career assessment at CCBC, due to my dissatisfaction with studying Interior Design, and the results were counseling and other social work-related careers, but I dismissed the message and thought that the test results were wrong. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to come back to my calling and explore my population of interest further.
It was not until years later, while working as a pharmacy technician, that I realized my passion for helping others. The staff at Caroline Center played a major role in my inspiration to pursue this journey in social work because they showed me how giving the oppressed and disadvantaged in society a free opportunity to improve their current circumstances has a huge impact on their overall well-being and quality of life. When I attended the Caroline Center I didn’t have a job and my only source of income was cash assistance and food stamps, which I was cut off from months before completing the program. It was stressful and a struggle to maintain and focus on anything other than my lack of income, but it was the best thing that has happened to me thus far and was well worth it. Shortly after graduating from the Caroline Center in 2012, I became nationally certified and I am able to work in any state as a pharmacy technician. The security of this field has given me much confidence and has opened many doors for me. I am now ready to expand and share my skills and knowledge.
What attracted my interest to social work was the ability to help show someone that their current situation does not have to determine how the rest of their life will be. Being that I was a teen mom, my original population of interest was young mothers, and then evolved to both of the parents because fathers get overlooked and excluded in the shared leadership and responsibility of parenting, especially the black male. But as I got further in both my pharmacy technician career and social work education, I gained a special interest in doing social work in a healthcare setting and believe that my experience will help me become a more efficient and effective social worker. Social workers play many roles and I plan to serve my target population and community anyway I can.