State group honors student
The Texas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers named UH graduate student Meghan Baker the state’s Social Work Student of the Year.
Baker, a J.D. and M.S.W. dual degree student in the Law Center and Graduate College of Social Work, will be honored at the organization’s annual conference in October.
“It feels amazing to be recognized by the NASW and to have been nominated by my peers, many of whom are themselves deserving of this award,” Baker said. “It is an honor I do not take lightly, and I am grateful to be recognized by this outstanding organization.”
Baker received the award in part for demonstrating a commitment to the profession of social work, her clients and to social justice.
“I think that fighting social injustice is inherent in almost all the work we do as social workers,” Baker said. “I think that being committed to the profession of social work within my experience has meant being mindful of social work values, something I strive to incorporate in everything I do.”
The profession’s commitment to fighting injustice wherever it occurs is what drew her to the field in the first place.
“As a member of the GLBT community, I have observed first hand the discrimination and oppression that we face, so that was a natural place for me to serve,” she said. “However, I like to think I am also committed to righting wrongs that affect other groups as well, and I have worked to advocate for people with disabilities, youth in foster care, and other vulnerable populations.”
Baker’s active work in the community includes working with the Houston Area Teen Coalition of Homosexuals (HATCH), a support group for the city’s GLBT youth.
“The work I do with youth is probably the most meaningful to me. At HATCH, my partner and I serve as volunteer facilitators, a role I moved into after finishing a one-year social work internship at HATCH,” Baker said. “Among other things, it gives us a chance to give back to the community and to provide a safe space for queer kids to hang out, something we did not have when we were in high school (or) in College Station.”
Baker also serves as a Guardian ad Litem for Child Advocates, a volunteer position that enables her to utilize both the social work and legal skills she is currently learning. She has been working with a 17-year-old girl who has been in the permanent custody of the state for the last year.
“My work at Child Advocates is both extremely challenging and rewarding at the same time. My job involves visiting her at least once a month and going to court to advocate for her best interest,” she said. “Serving as her Guardian ad Litem is a role I take very seriously, and I truly value the relationship we have.”
In August of 2007, Baker and her partner Lindsey were legally married in California, during the brief period of time same-sex weddings were allowed. After the passage of Proposition 8, three months after their first anniversary in November of 2008, she was part of a team that organized a rally in Houston.
Baker spoke at the rally, which made her realize that Houston needed an organization that would advocate on behalf of the GLBT community, and founded Impact Houston right after.
“Advocacy is a huge part of what social work encompasses, and this experience laid the foundation for me to build my skills in this area,” she said.
Assistant professor at the Graduate College of Social Work Suzanne Pritzker thinks Baker’s work is building on the profession’s history of strengthening communities for all people.
“Meghan exemplifies what it means to be a social worker, committed to her clients on both an individual and macro-level,” Pritzker said in a press release.
“I feel Meghan is very deserving of this award,” Pritzker added in an e-mail. “I am glad that her strong and impactful work in the community and in the classroom has been recognized in this way.”
Baker is a 2003 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin’s Plan II Honors Program. Her dual degree program is scheduled to end in May 2011. She is still planning the next stage of her life after graduation.
“Ideally, I would like to work with and for youth, either in the foster care or juvenile justice setting, and I would love for this to include advocating for GLBT youth who are particularly vulnerable within these systems,” she said.