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The sheer number of possible majors and careers can be overwhelming to those who care passionately about many different things. Often, another perspective is needed to help identify which talents and interests may be suited for a particular vocation. “I had a lot of random ideas of what I might like to do,” says Katie Binder. “My mom recognized that I had always loved to be around people and liked helping others.” With her mom’s guidance, Katie contacted some social workers to learn about why they entered that particular field and connected with their responses. From her mother’s advice and her own research, Katie determined that she would enter Messiah College with a declared major in social work.
Katie took full advantage of the many opportunities Messiah provides to prepare students for the real world. She had a hand in the establishment of the Social Work Club
and, through the club, she was involved in leading alternate chapels and awareness projects. “The only way to become a good social worker is through hands-on experience,” she advises, and at Messiah she found many opportunities to gain such experience.
Katie also held a work-study position at the Career Center. Through her experience assisting other students she saw how the center’s counselors “love to meet one-on-one with students to help them decide what they want to major in, what type of job they would like, and the steps they need to take to get there.”
“The social work program prepared me to work with a diverse population of different races, genders, and issues,” Katie explains. “I work with high-risk teenagers in their homes. The events of each day are unpredictable and my Messiah experience taught me confidence and gave me knowledge to handle these crisis situations safely and professionally. In everyday interactions with clients, the knowledge I gained from the classroom and skills I learned from field placements are put into practice.”
• "Find out what your passions are."
• " What do you get excited about? What can you talk about and read about and truly enjoy? Choose a career that allows you to do those things."
Upon graduation Katie immediately began applying for jobs working with youth. “I went to several interviews,” she describes. “When I interviewed for the position I ended up accepting, I could tell that this was the job and the agency for me.”
Katie knows her journey is just beginning. “I knew that I wanted to go to graduate school but decided to wait a year and gain more practical experience” she says. Recently Katie began work on her master’s degree in social work.
As a case worker Katie spends most of her time working one-on-one with teenagers who are at high-risk to be placed in residential or foster care or detention centers. “I do mostly skills-based counseling,” she says, “helping kids learn to handle their anger, learn refusal skills, and address issues of alcohol, grief, or abuse.” When she isn’t spending time with her clients she is connecting with others involved in the youths’ lives, such as doctors and family therapists, to discuss and make plans for the youths’ futures. She describes much of her time as “completely unpredictable and never boring!”
“I see a lot of hurt, anger and disappointment every day on the job,” Katie says. “The little moments are what make the job all worthwhile. I had a 16 year-old client who had gone through a very rough time with her family. We had some rocky times in counseling, but ultimately she really learned some things and pulled through that hard time. Eight months after I discharged her, she called me up out of the blue one day just to fill me in on how she was doing. I was so excited to hear such a success story, and to hear the excitement about life she had in her voice.”
Katie learned early in her time at Messiah the importance of being involved in service to others. Through Messiah she began visiting the Shafner Youth Detention Center and working with Habitat for Humanity. “In the social work classes and through chapels I was constantly being challenged to live life honoring Christ,” Katie says. “I was challenged to apply my faith to my job and had to demonstrate what that might look like. One of the reasons I chose a job that serves others is because of the lasting impact Christ can have through me.”
As Katie pursues her master’s degree and continues to work with clients, she is becoming even more aware of the opportunities and possibilities the future holds for her. She plans to continue on her current path and possibly teach some day.
Find out how other Messiah grads work with children in their career:
Malia Meiser, abstinence education director
Katie Lebhar, high school theatre director
Elizabeth Imboden, pediatrician
Karen Willis, pediatric research dietician
Profile by Tyler Baber, November 2005