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I'm Going to Change the World by Being a Bridge

Andrew Stewart

  • Scholarships:
    Katherine R. Reebel Scholarship

If you grow up in Radcliff, Kentucky, next to Fort Knox, you go into the military or you go to college. Andrew Stewart chose college. He credits his mother, a single parent, with his drive to get an education and ultimately to enter social work. “Mom pushed me to do well academically,” he says. “I knew that, if I was going to do what I wanted to do, I had to get an education. There was never any doubt.”

As an undergraduate at the University of Louisville, Andrew volunteered reading in schools and running youth sports clinics. He also took a course at the Kent School of Social Work with Dr. Armon Perry. “He was a wonderful teacher,” Andrew recalls. “He sparked my interest.” Perry brought a representative of AmeriCorps to speak to his class. Andrew signed up with AmeriCorps and was placed with Global Game Changers in downtown Louisville. The nonprofit offers a K-5 curriculum that teaches young people how to realize their skills and talents and use them to address community needs. “The work matched my passion to help people know their potential,” Andrew says. “I heard kids’ stories and talked to families. I heard about homes with one parent or none. I came from a single-parent home. My experiences related to those kids’ experiences. I wanted to be part of their lives and help.”

Again, Andrew drew inspiration from his mother. “My mom never judges anyone. She says you have to get to know people’s lives and their stories. I got to know those kids. I gave them a chance to show their skills and potential, and it really shook me.” Andrew decided a Master’s in Social Work would be next. He applied to and was accepted at U-M, and he received a Katherine R. Reebel Scholarship, funded by a generous gift from the School’s emirita professor.

“I came here because U of M is number one in social work,” Andrew says. “I also wanted to continue to live in the kind of liberal, diverse atmosphere Louisville had provided. I came to Ann Arbor and toured the School of Social Work. Everyone was so sweet and nice. And it’s very diverse. I wanted to be part of a student body with people from a lot of places. U-M had that. I felt this tug at my heart to be here.”

Diversity is integral to Andrew’s experience. His mother is white and his father African American. “You can’t know me unless you know both my African American and white sides. In social work, I’m blown away how many kinds of people you can work with. Cultural humility—being open to learn about others’ cultural identities—that’s what I strive for. It’s about discovery, not just a state of being ‘culturally competent.’ You don’t make assumptions about the client’s condition. You learn about the client’s issues and problems from the client’s own words.”

In social work, I’m blown away how many kinds of people you can work with. Cultural humility—being open to learn about others’ cultural identities—that’s what I strive for.

This approach is just what Andrew found here at the School of Social Work. “The professors are challenging me to think in new ways,” he says. They’re teaching me to reflect on my own privileges and biases, so I have to think deeper about where I’m coming from and how can I listen to clients from their perspectives. And there’s a great support system in place here. Everyone is asking me if I want support! Everyone is getting connected as quickly as possible.”

About his scholarship, Andrew says, “It definitely took a burden off my shoulders. It was a big part of my decision to leave my home state to come to Michigan. I couldn’t have made that decision without the scholarship, so I am very, very thankful and grateful that Dr. Reebel created the scholarship, and that the School could offer me this opportunity.”

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