“I got into social work because I feel like I can really understand the different challenges people face in life. You name it and I’ve probably been through it.
When I was 13, my siblings and I ended up in foster care. We lost our mom and our father was in prison. We eventually went to live with a family member who we didn’t know very well. I stepped into a parental role for my younger siblings and I got into some trouble too. Once I was expelled for lashing out at a teacher.
All these experiences really help me to never judge anyone—criminals, victims, anyone. I always remember that I don’t know what they’ve been through that may have led them to a poor decision or tough spot in life.
I’ve always said my top three jobs would be a therapist, a juvenile probation officer or a school counselor. I love hearing about people’s stories and what they’ve been through and helping them figure out where they want to be and how they can get there.
I especially understand what it’s like to be a kid and not have a voice or a mentor. When I was in the foster care system and working with child protective services, I would voice my concerns, but it didn’t seem to matter what I thought. Once they decided the home was safe and the parents were okay with having us, what we said didn’t matter.
I always thought I didn’t like kids and that I’d never have kids. Now, I have two kids of my own and I work with kids all the time. I teach kids hip-hop classes, I worked at a before and after school program for years and I volunteer at the Reno Police Department for the victim services unit. I just have this heart for kids, and I think they need someone to speak out for them.
I finished the U’s Bachelor of Social Work program in one year, completely online from Nevada. It was important to me to still be involved in the university even from far away, so I volunteered as a research assistant and eventually applied for the UROP research project on eyewitness identification.
At one point I was working full time, taking six classes, teaching dance and fitness classes and raising my kids. People often ask me how I do it all and I just think, ‘can’t is not an option.’ I know it needs to be done and I just do it.”
—Ebony Miller, Class of 2020, Bachelor of Social Work