(JACKSON, Miss.) – Two students from Jackson State University’s School of Social Work earned the top student prizes at the annual conference of the Mississippi Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers on March 24.
The two future social workers, master’s candidate Kimberly McMurray and undergraduate William “Nick” Nicholas, both Jackson natives, received the Claire Nowlin Student Awards, which are granted to students from accredited B.S.W. and M.S.W. schools in Mississippi. One student is selected for the graduate award and one for the undergraduate award from among nominations received from the schools.
“It is really a huge honor to be nominated by my professors for such a prestigious award,” McMurray said. “Then to actually receive the award is incredible. I have a huge sense of gratitude.”
The University of Mississippi graduate said she chose to pursue her master’s in social work at Jackson State because of the school’s reputation and the commitment of its professors.
“I had spoken to several people who spoke so highly about the social work education they received here,” she said. “The professors really make the program. They are so dedicated and encouraging to their students. It’s really been a phenomenal experience.”
After she graduates in May, McMurray plans to get a job working with children and families and continue her studies to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).
Nicholas, who returned to school to study social work after a decades-long career as a paralegal and in the information technology field, said he was “blown away” by receiving the award.
“I was just so honored, not just for me but for Jackson State,” said Nicholas, who will graduate in May. “It’s a real testament to the program here. Jackson State has the best social work program in the state of Mississippi.”
The 52-year-old said he decided to pursue a social work career after learning in 2007 that he had contracted AIDS. After he finishes his education, Nicholas plans to work with people affected by HIV/AIDS in Mississippi.
“There’s just too much to be done here,” said Nicholas, who moved back to Mississippi from California after being diagnosed with AIDS. “I really do feel like I have a calling. It took me to turn 50 years old and come down with a terminal illness to figure out what I wanted to do.”