KU 2020 grad used struggles as motivation to earn bachelor’s degree in social work

Rising Up at KUEC: In this Q & A series, outstanding 2020 KU grads share how the KU Edwards Campus has helped them start, advance or change their career. Meet Genilda Journey.

Genilda Journey

Her classmates and advisor say 39-year-old Genilda Journey personifies all of the values embodied by their national social workers association — service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. In May, this single mother of three will have a chance to carry those values into her new career as she graduates with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and minor in psychology from the KU School of Social Welfare. Born in Niagara Falls, New York, Journey now makes her home in Atchison, Kansas. She is a member and vice president of the BSW Student Group at KUEC.

Genilda Journey

According to her KUEC Academic Success Coach Amea Chandler, Journey has overcome many challenges and was just recently admitted to KU’s advanced standing master’s program — a type of graduate program designed for students who have earned a bachelor's degree in social work from a university with a CSWE (Council of Social Work Education) accredited program that typically take less time (or less hours) than traditional programs. Fellow classmate Nathan Eikmeier agrees Journey has persevered and succeeded in the face of difficult circumstances.

“One of the most accurate indicators of character is how an individual reacts to and counters adverse situations,” Eikmeier said. “She's admirably navigated personal and systemic challenges by adapting and overcoming each as they've occurred. I think the most astonishing piece of her journey has been her continuing ability to imbue spaces with her contagious hope and determination. I can tell you unequivocally that Genilda has made me a better person, a better father, and a better prospective social worker.”

As a single mother to 23-year-old Kelsey, 17-year-old Justis and 4-year-old I’Layya, Genilda Journey is a prime example of how to balance family life and school to create a better life for herself and her kids.

Q: What has a typical day in your life been like as a student attending KUEC?

A: I balance my time between being a single parent, a full-time student, and driving lots of highway miles to get this mission accomplished. Some days my homework is done but my house isn’t clean. Other days, my house is clean, but my syllabus is collecting dust. Even as a senior, I have yet to find the perfect balance between the two (lol) yet somehow, I have managed to make it this far.

Q: What makes you the happiest? 

A: #1 Seeing my children smile. Knowing they are safe, and their needs are provided for gives me happiness. #2 Giving Back. I’ll give my time, a complement, knowledge and resources, two dollars to a panhandler, anything I can. Whenever I get the opportunity, I give back in ways I am able. This brings me true happiness.

Q: What motivates you?   

A: The struggles and obstacles I have faced in life are the fuel that I use for motivation. My life has been hard. I never want to go back to the lifestyle I fought to escape. So, I strive daily to set a precedent of success, while creating a strong foundation and a brighter future for my children and future generations to come.

Q: Why did you choose KUEC? 

A: Easy to navigate campus. Attending a set two-year program on structured days and times helped me plan my family and work life around my school schedule.   

Q: How did KUEC meet your personal and/or academic needs? 

A: KUEC staff are approachable and caring. I felt confident going to them for assistance with my academic needs, as well as comfortable seeking guidance for personal issues I faced while pursuing my degree.

Q: How has your degree prepared you for the future?

A: The School of Social Welfare has provided me with an extensive knowledge base, as well as allowed me the opportunity to gain confidence in my skills through applied practice and supervision.

Q: What was the most difficult part of earning your college degree and how did you overcome it? 

A: At times it became difficult to find the motivation to continue studying and writing papers. I didn’t have a positive support system. I learned that motivation for success is something that comes from within. It is not something that I should expect someone else to provide for me. I understood that obtaining a degree of higher education was a goal that was personal to me, and many people around me may not understand exactly how important this goal was. I overcame this by researching my future career options post-graduation, along with the salaries for those positions in various states across America. This helped me to continue to push forward.

Q: What is your proudest accomplishment? 

A: Becoming the first person in my family to obtain a bachelor’s degree and getting accepted into the Advanced Standing Master’s Degree program at the University of Kansas.

Q: What is your favorite memory of your time at KUEC?  

A: Walking through the doors of KU and obtaining my University of Kansas Student ID. Wow! I am officially a student at a D-1 University!

Q: What are your long-term career goals and how do you plan to achieve them?

A: I plan to pursue life-long learning. I am currently enrolled in KU's Advanced Standing Master’s Social Work program. There I am pursuing a clinical concentration. After grad school, I plan to obtain my LSCSW. I would also like to give back to future generations of social workers by applying to be an adjunct professor while continuing to obtain my Ph.D. part-time.

Q: What advice would you give others who are thinking of earning a degree, whether a first-time bachelor’s, a second bachelor’s or a master’s?

A: Understand and know that YOU ARE WORTHY of YOUR DREAMS, this is the first step to achieving them! You’re reading this because of your desire for growth and knowledge. Do not let that desire burn out. I am a living example of what can be achieved through perseverance and persistence.

Learn more about the KU School of Social Welfare

Learn more about the Social Work (BSW) program

Download the program guide

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