Destiny Ayala, a BSW student and a SWEEP mentor, sticks to a wise saying often quoted by her mother: “When you put good into the world, you receive it back multiplied.” Her hard work and compassion for first-year students has been noted, and she has been awarded a Social Work Education Enhancement Program (SWEEP) Mentor Scholarship. This scholarship is granted by the school to exceptional SWEEP mentors and is funded by donors. As a SWEEP mentor, Destiny walks alongside first-year BSW students, helping them acclimate to the School of Social Work, connecting them with community and resources, and mentoring them.
Growing up in Dallas, Destiny watched her grandmother advocate and care for her neighbors as a curandera, a caretaker of the community. She would sell food to people and check in on new immigrants in the community, making sure that they were settling in comfortably. Destiny’s mother, an immigrant herself, came to the United States from El Salvador. The compassion of the strong women in her family inspires Destiny in the work she is doing as a SWEEP mentor and her future career as a social worker.
Destiny’s magnet school in Dallas had more than 95% of people of color, so coming to UT Austin was a bit of a shock for her. She noticed differences between her high school and UT Austin, leading to culture shock, even imposter syndrome. She speaks of how willing the professors were to work with her and help her out. She was unsure what exactly she wanted out of the field of social work when she first arrived, but she knew she wanted to help people.
When SWEEP began at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work (SHSSW), Destiny got involved right away. She was giving back to her fellow students, but this opportunity has also given her skills, confidence, and wisdom. Not only has she helped her mentees find social work-specific resources, but she has also been able to develop her conversation and communication skills. She has been able to work with different kinds of people, determining what their unique needs are. Because of this experience, Destiny feels very connected to the SHSSW and the people there, and she is grateful for the opportunities she has been given to make a difference.
As a first-generation college student herself, Destiny is passionate about helping other first-generation freshman students attending UT Austin. By helping them find resources and acclimate to UT Austin, she feels that she is giving back. Through this experience Destiny has built close connections with her professors and fellow students. Working with different personality types and identifying her mentees’ needs will serve her well in the field of social work. One of the most gratifying parts of her work with SWEEP has been seeing her mentees gaining interest in SWEEP and stepping up to become mentors themselves.
Destiny’s experience with imposter syndrome as a freshman drove her to pursue education equity. She is passionate about the intersection between education and juvenile justice, particularly the school-to-prison pipeline. She will be entering Teach for America after her May 2022 graduation and is considering law school afterwards.
Because of the SWEEP Mentor Scholarship, Destiny feels enabled to focus completely on her final semester in the BSW program. This opportunity opens her up to take advantage of any field placement opportunities regardless of whether they are paid or unpaid. In addition to a full course load, Destiny has been working all through college to support herself. The scholarship removes stress from her shoulders and shifts her focus to her education and areas of interest. Receiving this award confirms what Destiny’s mentees already know: that she is an excellent SWEEP mentor who goes above and beyond for her fellow students.