Earn a Degree in Experience

by Tonya Kloos, Summer Intern

Upon high school graduation the biggest question that always comes up is “where are you going to college?” This has become the basis of conversation and the expectation of our future generation. For some people, going to college may not even be on their radar while others may choose a vocational or a university setting. What makes a person decide to pursue going to college – is it just the expectation?

For me it means having a basis of understanding. It also happens to mean better pay, benefits, and opportunities. Sure in a year, I hope my name reads: Tonya Kloos, MSW; but does that mean I am more qualified than someone who does not have an MSW or a degree at all? Of course not. This is because someone who does not have a degree may, on the other hand, have many years of experience and knowledge in an area that earning a degree cannot grant you.

When applying for my internship at First Witness, I was nervous that I would not be given the position for lack of experience. A fellow intern expressed to me that she was nervous as well but for the reason that she had a two-year degree versus a four-year degree. What they saw is potential – not a degree type. Work ethic and commitment to social change are more important than the letters we will end up having after our names. Although education is important, it isn’t everything.

Families are very perceptive of when someone is being genuine, honest, and real with them versus someone who is just trying to meet an agenda. I know I can tell when someone is really listening so, why would I act different? Learning how to be honest, genuine, and real with families is only something that experience can teach us. My intern experience at First Witness thus far, I have learned more than any class has taught. After graduation, I’m confident when I begin working on the ground – that it’s not all about what I know but how I work and connect.