Career networking with seasoned professionals need not intimidate college students who are novices in the art. Just ask recent Greenville College graduate Darci (Sample ’13) Thompson whose current circle of professional colleagues grew in part from relationships she nurtured as a social work major at GC.
Darci is now prevention education coordinator for Stepping Stones, a program in Central Illinois that assists victims of sexual assault. She focuses primarily on victims with disabilities, working against the backdrop of today’s “rape culture” that often excuses assault and blames victims.
“I empower people with disabilities to have a voice,” she says, “and educate parents and caretakers of the incredibly high percentage of people with disabilities that are sexually assaulted.”
Darci traces both her passion to serve “the least of these” and her work with the disenfranchised back to relationships she fostered in college. As a graduate, she continues to engage in the GC community. “I still use Dr. Holden, Dr. Smerick, and Dr. Pennington as references for various applications,” she explains. “Their help is invaluable.”
The “deep and profound appreciation” Darci holds for her current clientele stems from her work during college for a local couple, both GC graduates, whose son has autism. Darci alternated with other students in taking regular shifts to engage the six-year-old in play therapy.
“The work inspired me,” she recalls. “It changed my life and completely changed my viewpoint of people in general.”
The experience taught Darci to look beyond categories like “normal” and “disability” to appreciate her young play partner. She later applied that same understanding to women offenders she encountered in an internship with Project Return in Springfield, Illinois, and another with Labyrinth Outreach in Bloomington/Normal. She applies it now to her Stepping Stones clientele.
“In reality, they are just persons who happen to have disabilities. Their disabilities do not define them,” she explains.
Darci’s experiences at GC – her work outside the classroom providing play therapy, her work in the classroom with professors and her work with fellow students as a resident chaplain – led to lasting relationships and good words about her work when she needed them. She secured a fully paid assistantship at Illinois State University that now funds her graduate studies in social work.
“I actually used all references from people I met in Greenville,” she says, adding that she will emerge from the three-year program loan-free, with a master’s in social work.
Darci puts a friendly face on the concept of networking. “I am thankful for the people that I met at GC who are still a part of my professional and personal growth,” she says.
There is little intimidating, after all, about simply keeping up conversations with folks that share her interests and experiences.
GC is engaged in a three-year accreditation process with the Council on Social Work Education that will increase the number of hours students serve in internships and connect them to even more internship providers.
Learn more about GC’s social work and criminal justice internships, by contacting Greg Pennington at (618) 664-6815.