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Kaneisha WheelockWhen Kaneisha Wheelock (BSW, 2015) saw the NAME FELLOWSHIP Interprofessional Fellowship in Substance Addiction Treatment publicized in a mass email to social work interns, she was interested but skeptical. “When I read about it,” she recalls, “it seemed pretty intimidating.” Nevertheless, “I figured it would be worth a shot…I had nothing to lose.”

After graduating from the CoSW with her BSW, Wheelock was offered a full tuition scholarship to SUNY-Buffalo. She’s graduating from Buffalo’s MSW program this year, and will then move to Seattle to begin the Interprofessional Fellowship in Substance Addiction Treatment at the Seattle Division of the Addictions Treatment Center within the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System. Throughout her journey, Wheelock has made bold choices that have paid off.

The Interprofessional Fellowship is incredibly selective—Wheelock is one of only two recipients this year out of over 500 applicants. She’ll be working with veterans on a variety of issues, including sexual trauma and PTSD. She will also collaborate with psychiatric and doctoral fellows to develop programs to improve substance abuse treatment for veterans, with the hope that these idea will then be implemented in VAs across the country. Wheelock says that “for me to just be graduating and be exposed to so many different problems is just a huge honor.”

Wheelock still seems a bit stunned by her achievement. “When I reflect back on it, [receiving the fellowship] just emphasizes the power of choice to me.” For her, receiving the fellowship was a moment of insight: “the only limitation I have in life is myself; it’s pretty encouraging that my background doesn’t define my future.”

Wheelock comes from a military family herself—her mother worked in military hospitals and VAs, and her father and both grandfathers are veterans—so she has person experience that informs her understanding of the stresses military families and veterans are under. She also has seen the effects of substance abuse on those close to her. Additionally, “as a woman of color and being raised predominately in a single mother household, I’m the first person on both my father’s and my mother’s side to go to college and to graduate school,” she says, so the odds seem stacked against her. She also reveals that she took a semester off of graduate school to care for ill relatives, has had seven surgeries, and had to re-learn to walk twice. But Wheelock refuses to be limited or defined by this abundance of adversity—it motivates her instead.

Her experiences have given her “a greater sensitivity to hear people’s stories,” which will be useful in treating veterans. “When they’re in the service, there’s this unity, and then you get out of the service…” she trails off. “It seems like all the people around you and even your community don’t understand you.” Her listening ear and compassion will put to work in her fellowship as she reaches out to veterans experiencing this isolation.

The fellowship opportunity required what Wheelock calls a “rigorous application process.” She endured a phone interview with 14 professionals on the line, and she was sure she was talking for too long. She was so nervous and convinced that it went poorly, “I didn’t even want to tell anybody I had an interview.”

But, in the end, “I think they just realized how passionate I am about helping others and about this population.”

Wheelock is also passionate about the University of South Carolina, largely due to the relationships she built here with members of cohort and with CoSW faculty and staff. Of Dr. Daniel Freedman, Jennifer Bosio-McArdle, and Rushondra James, she says, “I know if I ever need any support, I can reach out to them,” because “they have been such stabilizing factors w/in my social work career.” She remembers the kindness, good humor, and integrity of the people in the CoSW. These three in particular “do an amazing job of showing us that we are enough to help others see that they are enough.”

Wheelock still stays in touch with the other students from her field placement, reaching out to them for guidance. She feels able to do this “because of the integrity of the program,” in which students support one another. She believes that the “BSW program produces social workers whose impact goes beyond campus, beyond USC, and beyond South Carolina.” She is now excited to take her skills and knowledge to make positive change in Seattle and across the nation.



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