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ASPiRE Program Leads Student to Career in Social Work

Taylor WilkersonFor ASPiRE student Taylor Wilkerson, ’18, a psychology major from Chesapeake, Va., her involvement in ASPiRE helped to solidify her career goals. She has been accepted into VCU’s Master of Social Work program and will begin this fall.

After taking a psychology service-learning course her first year on campus, Wilkerson fell in love with being involved in the community, but transportation proved to be a barrier.

“ASPiRE helped solve this conflict by helping me become more involved and presenting many different opportunities, all with transportation and structure,” she said. “I was looking to become more involved with the VCU community in general, and ASPiRE seemed like a perfect fit.”

After attending a presentation hosted by ASPiRE that featured a professional social worker, a lightbulb went off for Wilkerson.
“I knew that I wanted to work with people in some shape or form, but was not sure how to go about it or reach that goal,” she said. “Our guest speaker worked with people who had experienced trauma or abuse and helped inform students how to be conscious of this when working with different populations. This made me realize how far-reaching and flexible a MSW degree is.”

As a student in ASPiRE, Wilkerson was able to work with Art for the Journey and the Opening Minds through Art program for adults with dementia. Her partner at the St. Mary's Woods Retirement Community was from Austria and lived in Europe during World War II, earned a Ph.D. in art history and worked as a professor for many years.

“As we would paint, we would also talk, and we got along wonderfully,” Wilkerson said. “We shared a lot of similar opinions on art and science, and every week, I looked forward to talking to her. One day, she asked me what I wanted to do as a career, and I told her social work. She smiled and told me she thought I would be wonderful at it and thought it was the right choice for me. Her saying that just really struck me because I was right in the middle of applying to VCU’s MSW program.”