Delandra Boone, MSW '18
In 2009, after years of working for General Motors in Lake Orion, Michigan, Delandra Boone was laid off. “I made Pontiacs,” she says. “And when they did away with Pontiacs, they did away with me. I thought, Where do I belong? What is my vocation? I had always helped others, so I had this idea about social work.”
Delandra, living 25 minutes north in Flint, had dropped out of school after ninth grade. Today she has four children, ages twelve to twenty-two. “When I was laid off, my oldest had just started high school,” Delandra says. “I didn’t want him graduating with a mom who was a dropout, so I went back for my diploma. Along the way I found out that social work was an actual job, and that encouraged me go for my associate’s degree. I discovered that there are no social work jobs for people with associate’s degrees. So I obtained my GED, then my associate’s degree, and finally I enrolled in U-M Flint and got my BSW. I truly was going to stop there! But a friend pushed me to apply for my MSW. Going back to school would give my family a better life, and I had the grades to get into U-M, but I wondered, Do they want a forty-something-year-old? And I wasn’t sure I could afford it.”
Like many scholarship applicants at the School of Social Work, Delandra wrote a personal mission statement, appealing for help. “I talked about restoring hope to Flint,” she says. “The water crisis happened in 2014, while I was getting my BSW; my family was affected. I wrote about our sacrifices and struggles. In 2009 we had gone from being middle class to being poverty stricken. We were also affected by violence in Flint. My oldest son was shot this past May. He pulled through, though, and it pushed me to want to help my city more. I want Flint to be a place people run to, not from.”
Delandra got into U-M and two other area schools of social work. When asked why she picked our school, she laughs: “I don’t know why I picked U-M! It’s a struggle just to make that hour-long commute. But I figured, if I got into the number one school of social work in the country, I’d better go through with it!”
It helped, of course, that Delandra’s personal essay was selected to receive the Olivia P. Maynard and S. Olof Karlstrom Scholarship for Community-Based Research.
“This scholarship is life altering, the Maynard/Karlstrom award has given me more air to breathe, helped my family, and helped me make the commute to Ann Arbor. This master’s program is the hardest thing I have done in my life,” Delandra says, “but I don’t regret it. I am pushing through! The scholarship is like an oxygen tank to get me through another semester. It motivates me to want to give back some day.”
For her field placement, Delandra is working with youth and families at WOW Outreach, a community center in Flint, but eventually she wants to start her own nonprofit for youth in Flint. “We have so many young people in the school-to-prison pipeline,” she says. “I want to advocate against that and motivate our youth. People with privilege sometimes don’t understand the struggles that those without privilege go through. If going to college is not your family’s norm, it’s probably not going to happen for you. Who’s going to do something about it? That’s something that I plan to address in my career.”