When Patrease Hawkins left her home in Laurel, Md., to attend UConn’s School of Social Work, the move was anything but easy. She was homesick, missed her family and friends, and struggled to focus academically.
That Hawkins was able not only to persevere but thrive at UConn (she now carries a 3.9 GPA) is a testament to her resolve and to the welcoming community she found in Hartford. And now, the Hartford area and the city’s elderly population stand to benefit from that. Especially the area’s grandparents.
Hawkins, who graduates in May with a Master of Social Work degree, plans to stay and work in Hartford.
“I love grandparent caregivers,” Hawkins says. “They’re so special for doing it all over again, raising their children’s children. I always wanted to work with seniors. There’s still a lot more that can be done for them, especially for grandparents.”
During her first semester at UConn, Hawkins served an internship that mostly involved working with grandparent caregivers. She later organized the first annual grandparents’ day for John C. Clark Elementary School and, based on her service there, was asked to be the lead volunteer for the City of Hartford’s Grandparents Raising Grandchildren’s 9th Annual Grandparents’ Fair.
Hawkins earned her bachelor’s degree at Bowie State University in Maryland, a historically black college. She was already interested in pursuing graduate studies in social work when UConn representatives attended a graduate school fair there. UConn, she said, was the only school discussing community organization.
“Their presentation was very attractive, but I knew I could never afford to go to an out-of-state school,” Hawkins says.
That’s when her perseverance kicked in again. Scrambling to find a way, Hawkins ultimately applied for and received a Human Rights and Opportunity grant, which covered her tuition and even a small part of her living expenses. Before she knew it, Hawkins was a UConn student and an East Hartford resident.
“I wouldn’t have been able to come here without it,” she says. “And I’m so glad I did. There’s such a rich culture here. Everybody is trying to make sure you get to a place where you can be the best you can be, to pull out your potential.”
And, she says, she really likes Hartford and wants to work there.
“I love the area, I love the field, I love the work,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to getting into the work force.”
That work, she says, could involve being a policy analyst, a community organizer, working on urban policies, or writing grants.
“My goal is to continue working with the 50-plus population in the areas of advocacy and community organization, but I’m open to working toward social change for just about any vulnerable population,” she says. “I truly have a heart and passion for urban communities and the pursuit of building sustainable communities.”
And that’s good news for Hartford.
Article By: Richard Veilleux of UConn Today