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Changing our Communities

Nekkita Beans enrolled in UA’s Social Work master’s program with a dedication to making children’s lives better. After a very successful undergraduate career and a transformative internship at the University of Mississippi, she chose The University of Alabama for the next stage of her education because of the opportunities that a graduate fellowship made possible.

Her first-year McNair Fellowship allowed her to dedicate her time and energy to her coursework and professional opportunities. She completed her master’s degree with a perfect 4.0 GPAand a field placement that quickly became her life’s work.

Nekkita’s path began with tragedy and loss. In the small town of Philadelphia, Mississippi, six-year-old Nekkita lost her mother, and her world shifted farther off its axis with each coming day. Left in the care of her abusive stepfather, she and her siblings soon entered the foster care system, saddled with the emotional confusion of fear and relief. Nekkita does not shy away from her past.Instead, she said, “I share my story because it might help somebody or motivate one person to action.

”When asked why she chose to pursue social work for her own career, Nekkita was quick to clarify, “social work chose me. It saved my life.”

Eventually, her life led her to UA. She admits she wrestled with imposter syndrome as a first-generation college student on a big campus. While she felt she did not belong the first day of class, her social work cohort quickly became the support she needed to stoke her fire.Her graduate fellowship helped her feel as though she belonged and gave her confidence in knowing that she was one of the most talented students of her cohort.

Undaunted by challenges, Nekkita landed an internship with the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative (FSFSC). This gave her experience with policy and advocacy as she lobbied on behalf of others on Capitol Hill. She also participated in the 36th Annual Social Work Conference at the United Nations, in New York City. In contrast to the imposter-syndrome threats of her early years, she said her internship,“was challenging, but if I can do two classes, an internship and a new city at the same time, I can do anything.”

Nekkita’s drive was evident to those at FSFSC. In fact, they were so impressed with her dedicated and outstanding work that they offered her a full-time position upon graduation. Forgoing her moment on stage at commencement, Nekkita drove home to pack her car, hug her loved ones and turn back to Washington.

Resolved to use her own life experiences and opportunities afforded her to improve the lives of her neighbors, Nekkita is now fully immersed in her work, developing her experience and finding new ways to be most effective. She is teaching parenting and job-readiness classes in prisons, writing grants and successfully relocating families. Nekkita described every day in Washington as another day to meet her goal. She said,“I want to dedicate my life to saving children, to saving people who can’t help themselves.”

The McNair Graduate Fellowship was a groundbreaking opportunity for Nekkita, for UA and for the communities she is now aide. UA’s School of Social Work is a better place for having had Nekkita as a member of its ambitious cohort, and her work will continue to draw credit –and future students –to the Capstone.Graduate fellowships are critical to UA’s ability to attract and develop our nation’s top graduate students, who advanceto careers of leadership and service. Through the Rising Tide Capital Campaign, we aspire to increase both the number and the competitiveness of our fellowships to a pace that matches our aspirations and to a level that UA’s research stature merits.

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