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Social work major aims to serve the needs of veterans

Social work senior Sam Hill excels academically and outside of the classroom, all while helping to serve the needs of veterans struggling with PTSD and mental health issues.
Social work major aims to serve the needs of veterans

Social work senior Sam Hill (pictured right) poses for a picture with USGD President Frank Smith while volunteering at the first annual CoPP Commnunity Service Volunteer Day.

Sam Hill says there is something on her calendar every day of the week. Somehow the busy social work major manages to excel in class and juggle work and outside activities.

She was recently elected one of eight students on Arizona State University’s 2013 Homecoming court. She represented the College of Public Programs and the Downtown Phoenix campus.

Originally from Bakersfield, Calif., Samantha was in the top five percent of her high school class. She chose ASU because of the scholarships and proximity to home.

She says her whole family is in the criminal justice field—an area she originally considered. Sam is interested in veterans’ issues, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health. During her first course in social work, she knew she had the right match. 

Gaining experience early

Sam is already gaining experience in the field through an internship with the Arizona State Hospital where she works with veterans suffering from mental illness. She works on the forensics side with people who have committed a crime—a position that is typically offered only to graduate students.

“As an undergraduate, it is hard to break into this field,” she says.

Through persistence of an advisor—and a solid interview—Sam was offered the position.

“Mental illness can affect anyone,” she says. “It is a stigma in our society. I love being there and being able to bring my experience back to campus to help educate others.”

Connecting with community

This year Sam is a community assistant in Taylor Place. She says it is a varied role—providing advice, encouragement and connecting students to resources.

“A lot of the difficulties that students in my group experience are things that I have gone through,” she explains. “It is a great place to be and feels more like a residence than a dorm.”

Sam has also held leadership positions as a peer advisor for the School of Social Work and as community outreach director for the Social Work Student Organization (SWSO). She says that all students in the social work degree program are automatically members, and can tailor their level of involvement.

“Through SWSO, we have a direct voice to faculty. It is absolutely amazing to be in a meeting and have them ask for our opinion on behalf of the students,” she says.

One of SWSO’s signature events is on Veteran’s Day. In the annual event, students bring veterans from veterans’ homes to the parade in central Phoenix. Last year was the biggest turnout ever. This year, SWSO is partnering with Phi Alpha, the social work honors society and hopes to grow it even more.

Overcoming obstacles

Sam knows first-hand the challenges of balancing studies and finances. She has worked multiple jobs during her time at ASU to help offset debt.

Before her junior year, Sam was faced with cost increases and made the difficult decision to take a year off to work. She went home and took a job with a fast-food restaurant to earn money to build up the resources to continue her education.

Over the summer, the then-associate dean of students for the Downtown Phoenix campus contacted Sam with an idea. She offered Sam a job as residential review board chair—providing income and help with living expenses.

“This school is amazing. If you need help—especially if you show the desire to work hard—they will find the resources for you,” Sam says.

“College is what you make it, especially at ASU, one of the largest universities in the country. We have everything. There are over 800 student organizations—and if what you want to do doesn’t exist, grab a couple of friends and a faculty advisor and you can make it happen.”

On track to graduate in May, Sam will be the first in her family to earn a college degree. Sam hopes to pursue a master’s degree, ultimately working as department head in a hospital that serves veterans.