Go Green! --- I am a first generation college student who is passionate about social justice and helping young people navigate through the most transitional stages of their life, to become the highest and best expression of themselves, and have successful life outcomes. I became passionate about issues specific to at risk populations (i.e. young people of color), as a foster child who was frustrated with my own adverse childhood experiences and a system that was failing me. I began advocating for myself and speaking out against child abuse when I was just ten years old by declaring “I’m not going home anymore!” Although I wouldn’t realize it until many years later, a social worker was born in that moment. I also began speaking up for my friends and helping them to find effective coping mechanisms for their own adverse experiences.
Determined to become self-sufficient, I started working my first job at the age of 14 and have subsequently acquired a variety of professional and personal experiences, helping to establish my credentials over the last 22 years. Although I left home at the age of 15, I graduated from high school on time with my diploma, while concurrently attaining a certificate of cosmetology and later obtaining my license in cosmetology. Working as a hairstylist helped me to further develop my passion for empowerment, counseling, and advocating for others as I would listen to others’ life narratives and encourage them towards positive change. I discontinued my work as a hairstylist after a few years in the field, and began my higher educational pursuits in psychology and juvenile justice at the associate degree level. I maintained my cosmetology license by launching my freelance makeup business - “Doll Faces by Danni,” where I continue to empower women through workshops and trainings on personal image and managing self-care.
Empowerment continues as a theme in life. I’ve hosted empowerment sessions via “Real Talk” dialogue circles serving as a ministry leader for youth and young adults at my church; there I also spent time as the Director of Videography. Outside of these community leadership experiences, I was hired as a Project Assistant at a research, evaluation, and development public policy firm for eight years. During my tenure at the firm, I contributed to the research design and development of a Racial Equity & Inclusion Lens for Evaluation including a ‘How-To Manual’ for the lens; chaired the committee for an Employer Conference on Workplace Diversity; co-facilitated diversity, equity and inclusion training sessions for local businesses in the Greater Lansing area; and worked on the administrative teams for the Michigan Child Welfare Improvement Task Force, Disproportionate Minority Contact Report, Compliance Monitoring of Juveniles in lockup facilities, and the Michigan Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative. In my time at the firm, I also held roles as an Administrative Assistant, and the executive assistant to a Senior Policy Consultant who was also the President of the Greater Lansing Commission on Race and Diversity, where I served as a commissioner as well.
After a successful internship at a juvenile detention facility, I worked part-time as a Juvenile Detention Specialist for the last five years of my eight year tenure at the research and evaluation firm. While working two jobs, I also obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Community Services with a Family Systems concentration from Siena Heights University. While in that role, I found myself frustrated yet again with the child welfare and juvenile court systems and how they were failing youth, particularly those of color. Seeing and experiencing structural and institutional racism, and desiring to effect positive change in the personal lives of young people led me to pursue credentials and a career in social work.
Gaining acceptance to the Master’s degree program at the Michigan State University School of Social Work, and acquiring a graduate assistantship as an Assistant Community Director of residence halls, was a dream come true for a Lansing native who has always considered myself a Spartan. Being that I was a nontraditional college student, accepting the live-in assistantship was first time that I had lived on a college campus. Having a “real” college experience was something that I never thought that I’d experience. The graduate assistantship has also afforded me community service opportunities at three Spartan Day of Service events where over 500 MSU students and staff filled in service and labor gaps at 22 sites in the greater Lansing area. I currently serve as the advisor for South Neighborhood Black Caucus which has been very active with programs and activities that support social justice movements, create cultural awareness opportunities, and support community service initiatives within the greater Lansing community.
I have had good success in the MSW program with a cumulative GPA of 3.85, and I have held a 4.0 GPA for the last three semesters. As a result of my academic accomplishments I acquired membership with the Phi Alpha Honor Society and a scholarship from Dean Anderson for working with special populations. As a foster care alumni, my passion and commitment to helping young people who have had unfortunate life circumstances led me to acquire my first year internship at the MSU FAME program. The FAME program provides support through coaching, mentoring, and academic programs & resources, to students who have had experiences with foster care, kinship care, adoption and homelessness prior to arriving at MSU. My current internship is at the MSU Counseling Center where I am a practicing a mental health clinician for the MSU community.
My long term career goals include a mix of micro and macro practice of social work through research, teaching, social justice programming and initiatives, and practice as a clinician. I am most passionate about working with young adults and college students to help them successfully navigate their new found autonomy, all while managing social and academic expectations. I am currently applying to doctoral programs in Social Work so that I can continue to achieve my goals to effect positive change and successful life outcomes for others.