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Personal experience puts WSU-Rochester student on path toward social work degree

Personal experience puts WSU-Rochester student on path toward social work degree

Adejoke Odeyinka remembers everything about her first experience with an American social worker. The year was 2008, and Adejoke and her family had just arrived in Rochester from their native country of Nigeria.

Being new to the country, they were immediately paired up with the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association, a nonprofit that supports immigrants and refugees.

As Adejoke tells the story, she was anxious about the experience — a feeling that was only made worse when her 8-month-old daughter began to get restless inside the social worker’s office.

“Here goes my daughter; she goes flying along the table, pulling papers around,” recalls Adejoke.

How the IMAA staff member responded has had a lasting effect on Adejoke. Instead of finding her daughter distracting, the man embraced the child.

“He made my daughter feel lively in his office, and he was kind of playing around. So, I’m like, ‘if I may ask you: were you employed to be playing around with babies in the office?’”

Adejoke smiles telling the story. The man in the office later explained he was a social worker.

It was at that moment she realized what the job entailed, and that the role of a social worker is about much more than filing paperwork. It is also being kind, patient, and empathetic.

So, once she settled into her new community, Adejoke decided to go back to school. It just so happened that Winona State University-Rochester offered the social work major she had her heart set on. In 2014, she enrolled in the Path to Purple 2+2 academic program, which allows students to earn credits from a two-year school like RCTC before transitioning to WSU-Rochester to complete their bachelor’s.

“The school program really worked well with my work and family schedule,” says Adejoke, now a senior. “And the instructors, they were very, very helpful.”

The mom of four describes herself as a “straight shooter” who is not afraid to ask questions or collaborate with her peers. As a computer novice, for instance, Adejoke credits her fellow students for helping her navigate the digital world.

“I like getting to the root of things,” she says of her time in the classroom. “Being in a small class is an opportunity, because your instructor will get to know you one by one.”

Adejoke is set to graduate from WSU-Rochester this spring. From there, she plans to spend more time with family and perhaps pursue her master’s degree at some point in the future. She would also like to use her education to become more active in the community, including working with seniors, something she has been doing for 10 years as a dietary aid.

In the meantime, Adejoke feels fortunate to be able to help her children more with their homework. She also has a better understanding of human behavior.

And as important as any accomplishment for Adejoke: she’s shown her family what is possible.

“Oh my goodness, it means the world to them,” she says. “That mom could go to school in this country, despite my age, despite a lot of things, so they are so proud.”

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