Kylie Youmans, MSSW ’19, has been selected by her peers as commencement speaker.

Hometown: Littleton, Colorado.

Why social work: I always knew that I wanted to go into counseling. Then I learned that social work was a much broader field that allowed me to care about all my interests at once. The social justice component also stood out and meant a lot to me. In cosmetology school, I had a glimpse of human trafficking in the beauty industry. One of the reasons I chose to come to the Steve Hicks School was the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault. I got to work with them, and to be part of a court-watch program where we evaluated a prostitution exit program. I also realized that I needed to build more capacity to handle the trauma that comes from human trafficking, and learned that I could care about it and work to address it, even if it’s not from the front lines — for now.

Favorite experience at UT Austin: Two things. First one was the UT-USC football game last year. My dad came down and the entire stadium was sold out, and we kept hopping seat to seat so we could sit together, and we ended up in the top corner closer to the moon. It was just a really fun time to be with a bunch of other people that love Texas football. The second one was the experience of being in a cohort my first year and the friends that I made through that as we all navigated social work school together.

Most challenging time on the Forty Acres: The reality of balancing grad school and the emotional component of social work was a lot to get thrown into all at once. What’s nice about going to social work grad school is that everyone is so understanding. But the stresses and realities of having a life and school is just a hard place to be.

Best social work internship moment: During my first semester I was an intern with Communities in Schools. One of my clients was a 15-year-old that was pregnant, and I was able to look through her insurance options. We got her not only one, but two, car seats for her for free! I think it was the first time I got a glimpse into what is out there for people that they just don’t know about and the way that social workers can connect services and people. It was really rewarding to have her come back and be thankful for that.

Favorite professor: Sarah Sloan was my cohort professor. There was never a minute that any of us doubted that she was on our team. She’s such an advocate and such a solid example of the balance of self-care and being really passionate about your work. She was always encouraging and is just the best to this day. I still call her in moments of crisis! The other is Arlene Montgomery. She is just one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met, and the way that she looks at client interactions is just so smart. It’s taught me how to understand what’s really going on with people to better serve them. Additionally, Margaret Hill was my trauma professor. She made trauma something that was less scary but still important to understand for helping people. Side note, I actually tracked the number of times she said “trauma” all semester, and I think it was close to 884 times!

On graduation: I’ve got the gist of my speech down. I’m using a tidbit from a yoga teacher once that brought up the idea of “breathing wisely” and what that mean for how we use our breath. Also, my parents are coming into town. They love any excuse for coming into Austin. A lot of my friends are interested in coming to listen to the speech or celebrate with me afterwards. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to evoke gratitude and reflection for all of us. I’m really excited because it’s been a wild ride for all of us.

Plans for the future: I’m currently an intern at UT Athletics, and there’s a possibility that I might be able to continue to work with them and broaden my horizons in medical social work. I’m hoping to stick around since I’m passionate about the combination of sports and social work. I’m also going to work towards my LCSW.

Words of wisdom for the incoming class: Practice what you preach to clients, and that means communicating your needs, reaching out for support among friends, making time to explore Austin and just getting creative with study spots and self-care. Social work is really good accountability for your personal life, too.

By Lynda Gonzalez. Posted May 20, 2019.