February 4, 2015

SVSU social work senior finds career calling

Keshara Mumford arrived at Saginaw Valley State University with a generous nature. Her course work and her relationships with faculty and staff helped her develop that attribute toward a career path.

After graduating from Chandler Park Academy (an SVSU charter school in Harper Woods) in 2011, Mumford began college as a criminal justice major, but the Detroit native found her true calling was helping others, so she switched her major to social work.

“I remember I took Social Work 215 with (Assistant Professor of Social Work) Teresa Beadlescomb, and I loved it,” Mumford said. “It was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I just didn’t know what it was until then.”

Since then, Mumford’s academic and extracurricular pursuits exemplify why The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recently granted SVSU the 2015 Community Engagement Classification. The designation marks SVSU as a university that is exceptionally connected with the community it serves and whose students demonstrate enhanced learning outcomes.

Early in her college career, Mumford participated in an SVSU Alternative Breaks trip that sent volunteers to Tahlequah, Okla. There, she and her peers painted a youth center and renovated the home of a wheelchair-bound World War II veteran.

“To see a grown man cry and thank us for our services, I thought, ‘Wow, I want more of that,’” she said. “To express that much gratitude was amazing.”

Now Mumford is involved in the United Way of Saginaw County’s Healthy Kids Healthy Futures Partnership AmeriCorps program. For the past two years, she has worked to support and improve the lives of Saginaw youth.

“It gives me a sense of belonging and being connected to the community,” Mumford said.

The opportunity teams her with the Boy Scouts of America’s Water and Woods Field Service Council, where she’s completing 900 hours of service as an outreach facilitator. Her efforts include teaching boys and girls about life skills, health and nutrition, substance abuse prevention and more.

“I talk to them a lot about volunteering, too,” she said. “It’s never too early or too late to get involved.”

And she gets involved in their lives. Recently, Mumford began attending some of the students’ sporting events.

“After the first time I did that, one of the older boys came up to me and said, ‘I really appreciated that because no one ever came and cheered for me,’” Mumford recalled. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is why I’m doing this.’ Now I’ve made a commitment to go to every game.”

Mumford, who expects to graduate in May 2016, said she plans to turn her experiences and social work degree into a career helping others, potentially with a nonprofit organization.

She hopes to continue working with youths during her professional career, as well as teach social work one day.

“The opportunities and the education I’ve had at SVSU helped show me how to connect to the community,” she said. “I want to show others how to connect to their communities too.”