HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to Christina Swinney, Class of 2020, for being named as a Pope Francis Scholar at the National Catholic School of Social Services at Catholic University for the MSW Program! This remarkable achievement is part of the COMPASS Program of Catholic Charities-DC through which outstanding college graduates earn their MSW and devote their early professional careers to the great work of Catholic Charities in DC. Christina follows in the footsteps of other notable Trinity graduates who also won Pope Francis Scholarships including Hareth Andrade ’15, Bi’Anncha Andrews ’16 and Joseline Araujo ’17.
Christina wrote an essay about her educational journey and what the Pope Francis Scholarship means to her, and she gave me permission to publish her essay here:
Essay by Christina Swinney on Pursuing Social Work
My name is Christina Swinney. I’m a class of 2020 graduate from Trinity Washington University with a Bachelors of Arts in Health Services, with a concentration in Wellness and a minor in Sociology.
I’m a first-generation college student in my family. Coming from an African-American working-class two-parent household has challenged me to build up the confidence to aspire for more than my parents were able to accomplish. I began that journey at Trinity.
My Health Services background is a great foundation for earning the MSW as I will be basing my knowledge in healthcare, which is a key component to the well-being of community members. While in my senior year at Trinity I interned with Capitol Hill Village, as an assistant to the transportation coordinator. We worked to develop and advance a grant-funded operation (Travel Buddies) that helps seniors and people with disabilities navigate the city safely and effectively. We also advocated the benefit of wellness through healthy lifestyles to aging ward 6 residents, which works towards the mission of CHV to help seniors age in place. This internship provided insight into the nonprofit sector and how the utilization of social justice, advocacy, and service are interconnected for so many aspects of social work and are integral to overall community wellness.
My growth through my Trinity experience has catapulted me with thorough knowledge and competence to strive for candidacy at the NCSSS program of study at Catholic University. It has influenced me to steer towards social work and community service. I devoted a substantial amount of learning to social studies during my undergraduate years, including Sociological Theory, Social Research, Inequality and Society, and Family and Society. I’ve grown an affinity to the world of social work through the knowledge I gained in these courses in the pursuit of a Sociology minor. I understand that the principles comprising the study of societal relationships, social interactions, and culture are integral pairings to so many aspects of health, social justice, and community well-being. Thus the disciplines of Health Services and Sociology are equally important to the role of social service professionals. While in progress, I was exposed to the social side of public health, and gained much support in defining practical career paths.
I commend the work of my mentor Dr. Mwangi, my advisor Dr. Betschman, my sociology professors Dr. Moayedi, Dr. Momplaisir, and Dr. Gables who taught me medical bioethics, among other great instructors. These individuals were extraordinary in motivating and influencing my adoption of scholarly merit, and developed my absorption of health and sociology as complimentary sciences. Outside of these academic experiences, I was able to gain a glimpse of the prototype used for the Compass program when I worked for Holy Name of Jesus Parish. Using a similar outreach method, Maria Smith from Catholic Charities under the Archdiocese of Washington collaborated with our office team to implement the “Knock at the Door” ministry which mimics the Compass program’s interaction with the local community. I learned about the disconnect between residents and the agencies that are involved in servicing the community. It made me realize those gaps required innovative solutions and that I wanted to help fill them.
Social work was a practical choice for me because it’s doing the work of empathy that carries into supporting the well-being of people in my community. My purpose aligns with work that ministers to people in promoting the desire to overcome challenges, as I have. My niche of compassion and concern lie in the areas of healthcare, advocacy, and community organization for the neuro-diverse community. The source of inspiration for this compassion is my son.
My vision is to be able to integrate the clinical workings of this profession with aspirations to highlight the necessity of fair and ethical progress on behalf of the under-served and the vulnerable, especially low-income single-parent households. I’m intrigued about learning to protect the interests of these groups. A portion of my focus is addressing untouched issues of community sub-groups on matters such as ableism and autonomy-based rights for intellectually disabled people. I want to comprehend the social determinants of health by examining underlying processes of intersectionality that clients may encounter.
As my son who is on the Autism spectrum and I continue to encounter and go through challenges, I’m inspired to be of service to other parents like myself, who might not have sufficient insight or preparation to cope with challenges and to act effectively on the behalf of their child/ren living with special needs and abilities. Helping parents shape the destiny of their children’s lives through social work with awareness, research, policy, and legislative change is at the heart of social work. The hope is that outcomes can be improved and life risks eradicated, especially for BIPOC who are differently-abled as well.
The Pope Francis scholarship is allowing me to take advantage of higher education which I may have otherwise not had financial access to. I’m confident my participation in the program is a forward yielding investment for myself, my legacy, my community, and for neurodiverse inter-communities. I am grateful for the opportunity, which will elevate and provide hope for future generations that will follow. I’m committed to treading a path for those of us who have been overlooked because of stigmas associated with our demographic, gender, and socioeconomic characteristics. I’m thankful that Trinity has not only created but also supported a space for diversity in allowing these opportunities to be available to the student body. Thank you.