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Alumni Stories: Career Paths Influenced by Urban Education Initiative Practicum Experience

​​Yaniel Sargeant, MSW '13​​​​​
For Brown School students working toward careers supporting K-12 student success and socio-emotional wellbeing, the Brown School’s Urban Education Initiative offers an appealing range of career development opportunities, including field placements at education-focused organizations and institutions. Over the last six years, the initiative has led Brown School graduates to important and fulfilling work in the education sector.

The Brown School launched the Urban Education Initiative (UEI) in 2010 as an innovative approach to building school and community partnerships and increasing the capacity of educational programs to assist with the social, emotional, health and community needs of school-age children and their families.
As part of UEI, practicum opportunities for students were created through collaborations between the Brown School and elementary and secondary schools, as well as other organizations providing school-based services for youth. Alums of UEI demonstrate the impact that social work can have in collaboration with educational institutions and school-based programs. 

Some Brown School alums, such as Kaleigh Lawrence, MSW '15, and Emily Lombardo, MSW '15, came to graduate school with previous teaching experience, often through Teach For America. Lawrence has used her experience at the Brown School and with UEI to transition from a teaching role to being the first social worker at Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls. 

“My practicum experience provided me with the structure to recognize my passion for supporting young women and gave me the confidence to take on my founding role,” Lawrence said. 

For Lombardo, practicum with KIPP Through College provided an opportunity to learn about the educational landscape of the St. Louis region, which in turn helped her better assist students as they transitioned from KIPP’s elementary and middle schools to high schools in the region. She gained the skills needed to be employed by KIPP even prior to graduating from the Brown School.

It’s not uncommon for students’ UEI practicum experiences to transform into employment opportunities. After a successful foundation practicum, Bryan Capers, MSW '12, found his career path profoundly shaped by his concentration practicum experience at the Wyman Center, a nationally recognized organization providing empowerment programming for teens. This practicum opportunity, recommended by UEI Program Manager Aaron Jennings, led to Capers being hired as College and Career Readiness Program Manager and later promoted to Director of Wyman’s Teen Leadership Program.

Yaniel Sargeant, MSW '13, gained what she refers to as a “toolbox of skills” from UEI and the Brown School. These skills have helped her to “build effective relationships with students and communities, organize effective events, develop sustainable programs, and advocate for the equity of my students,” Sargeant says. She continues to utilize her skills through her current role as an honors advisor for students enrolled in community college.

In celebrating the successes of UEI alums, we must also recognize the efforts of Aaron Jennings. Jennings has helped to establish collaborations with K-12 schools and other programs that conduct school-based services, and he has provided field advisement to UEI students for the past several years. Jennings will be soon be leaving the Brown School to pursue the Doctor of Education Leadership program at Harvard, but his work with UEI will continue to demonstrate itself through the success of UEI alums and their broad impact on the well-being and educational attainment of young people. 

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