The Reward Of Giving Back

By Cori Guay

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Giving is in my blood. My parents always encouraged us kids to find ways to help others. I’ve simply been drawn to that thought ever since I was little.

When I came to Alabama, I knew I wanted to help people in one way or another. There were two majors where I felt I could make a difference, criminal justice or social work.

My dad spent time as a prosecutor, which made criminal justice tempting. But ultimately, I decided to go with social work.

I like how social work focuses a lot more on the people. I felt like it aligned more with what I wanted to do.

As a freshman, I enrolled in as many intro social work classes that I could. It was in one of those classes where I met a young woman who confirmed I was going down the right path.

Putting My Passion To Work

For my first ever social work class, we were required to volunteer as a part of our grade. I did my volunteer work at a nearby organization that focused on providing emergency relief to people in the local community.

I remember every little detail about my first case. It was a young woman. She looked like she was no older than 17 years old. She walked into our office and uttered three simple words:

“I need help.”

She had lost everything in a house fire. All her clothes, family photos, makeup, everything you can imagine was lost in a matter of minutes. While there are things you’ll never be able to replace, I was able to help that woman rebuild hope. And that’s why I think social work is so important.

I’ve always felt it’s better to focus on what you CAN do, rather than what you CAN’T do. In this situation, I had a special opportunity to help this young woman reshape her life. I couldn’t replace everything she lost but I could give her vouchers from a local thrift shop where she could pick out household appliances.

It seemed small, but it was so monumental to her. I think she just appreciated knowing that there were people around to help her.

And, from that moment on, I knew I had to be a social worker.

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While there are things you’ll never be able to replace, I was able to help that woman rebuild hope. And that’s why I think social work is so important. I’ve always felt it’s better to focus on what you CAN do, rather than what you CAN’T do.

Life On The Water

Just like I knew I was meant to help others, sports have also always been a part of my life. I just never imagined that my sport would be rowing, let alone that it would lead me to Alabama. I was just a little girl from Seattle who grew up in a really active family. I mean, I learned how to ski before I could walk!

And then, when I was just eight years old, I broke my kneecap while doing gymnastics. Since then, I’ve been in and out of different sports, never really finding one that I loved after my injury.

It was never acceptable to not play a sport in my household, though, so my mom and I kept looking. She eventually gave me two options – neither of which were my preferred choices. I had to decide between cross country or swimming.

On the day I was supposed to start cross country, a new alternative presented itself – rowing.

I, like probably most people reading this, didn’t know a whole lot about rowing. But boy did it sound a whole lot better to me than cross country. I enjoyed being outside and on the water. So, I gave it a shot.

The more I learned about it, the more I fell in love. Rowing gave me a sense of teamwork that no other sport before had ever given me. In rowing, no one is the shining star. Everyone needs to work together towards a common goal.

Building that sense of community and trust is genuinely unmatched.

The Heart Of The Crimson Tide

Similarly to rowing, Alabama gave me a huge sense of community. This is one of the many reasons I committed almost instantly. I always wanted a small-town-big-school kind of vibe. Alabama certainly has that.

Plus, the Crimson Tide has the best fan base in the country. Between every student, alum, faculty member, and fan, there’s a truly special connection. Alabama has provided me with an unparalleled opportunity to make numerous connections.

Preparing To Help

Alabama also allows me to prepare for my career as a social worker.

Even the skills I’m learning with rowing enable me to become a better social worker. Whether it’s the strong self-discipline and work ethic I need to showcase day in and day out, or simply learning how to manage my time more effectively. All I do adds value to my professional ambitions.

Pursuing My Passion

This year, I started an internship with the United Cerebral Palsy of West Alabama.

We help those affected by Cerebral Palsy, along with other disabilities, to live their lives to the fullest.

A lot of our clients don’t communicate verbally, so it requires a ton of non-verbal communication. I was nervous at first because I had never worked with people with disabilities before, and I really wanted to do my best and help as much as I could.

But, I knew what I was doing paid off when one of the clients heard my voice and came up, just to hold my hand. She then followed me around for an hour. I believe she saw me as someone she could trust.

Knowing that I can help somebody do something to make their life easier is the best feeling in the world. Showing someone that they’ve had the strength within them all along to do things as simple as washing their hands or brushing their teeth, is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

I’m very fortunate to be in the position that I’m in today, and can’t wait to continue my career and make a positive impact on other people’s lives. 

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