Oscar Kemp, a junior student at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Social Work, is one of two students nationwide to be named the first student representatives to serve on the board of the Council on Social Work Education, the national association representing professional training and program accreditation in the United States.
“To say the least, I was positively overwhelmed [when I heard I’d been appointed]”, Kemp said. “I remember screaming out loud because I realized the opportunity was an inaugural privilege. The next thing I remember was sitting alone and just saying thank you. I took a deep breath and considered the magnitude of my date.
Kemp is the first undergraduate representative on the board, while the first graduate student representative is Wendy Hernandez-De La Cruz, who is pursuing a master’s degree in social work from the College of Health Sciences’ Department of Social Work and California social services. Monterey Bay State University. Kemp and Hernandez-De La Cruz will serve one-year terms.
“I am thrilled to welcome Wendy and Oscar, two outstanding students, to the leadership of CSWE and know that their unique perspectives will help our organization better serve students and faculty in accredited programs,” said Saundra Starks, Ed. D., Chair of the Board of the Council on Social Work Education. “I am also grateful for the Board’s support in expanding our organization’s leadership to include students as we work toward our strategic goals.”
At VCU, Kemp serves as President of the Association of Black Social Workers and is a member of the School of Social Work’s BSW Program Committee and is a Racial Justice Fellow for the Radical Alliance for Anti-Racism, Change and Justice. Equity, or RAACE, a racial justice task force made up of faculty, staff, alumni and six fellows.
He is also an intern in the office of VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., and serves on the Advisory Board of VCU’s Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs. Kemp also previously served as Presidential Student Ambassador for the VCU President’s Office. These leadership roles, he said, “allow me to advocate on behalf of students and play a role in transforming the university to be more equitable, inclusive and empowering.”
Last spring, Kemp was awarded the VCU Board of Visitors Scholarship, which recognizes the achievements of an outstanding undergraduate student for academic achievement, leadership, and service to the university and community. It has also been recognized by the Department of African American Studies with an Emerging Black History Award.
“Oscar is an exceptionally motivated and passionate social work undergraduate student who is clearly on the right track to continue to be a pioneer in the field of social work,” said Beth Angell, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Social Work.
A first-generation college student from Danville, Virginia, Kemp was inspired to pursue a degree in social work because he believes it is a path to empowering others, improving lives, and better connecting members of society to one another. to others.
“I grew up in a low-income single-parent family as the oldest brother of four children. This means that I am very observant of my environment and the inequalities that exist. I moved many times growing up and no matter where I moved I noticed a pattern in people Those who worked hard never had time to enjoy the fruits of their labor Those who worked to survive barely made it past the finish line each month My family was in the latter group,” he said. “The empowerment and motivation to address inequality and inequity was lacking in all the communities I lived in.”
After graduating, Kemp aims to pursue a doctorate in social work. Her career goals include working in higher education, serving in public service, and becoming a social work educator. Ultimately, he said, he wants to create opportunities for youth and adults from underserved populations to feel empowered while pursuing higher education.
“There are so many people who have never had a chance to experience what I have. I want to change that,” he said. “My time at VCU changed my life forever. I want everyone, including those who are often harmed by oppressive systems, to experience the wealth of support, love, and learning that I experienced at this university. This support, love and learning has made me think more critically about my place in this world and how I can help others experience what I have.
Kemp said he wanted to rewrite the narrative surrounding higher education and how it operates around the student experience.
“I believe that at the heart of higher education is the ability to empower others to pursue their career aspirations by taking into account their past learnings, experiences and stories. Higher education has the ability to bridge the tension-filled gap between corners of society and I believe it is the gateway to creating solutions to many of the social problems we face. It is in higher education that people are sometimes first introduced to a diverse set of people, support and empowerment to make a difference in their personal and professional lives. We need to keep that in mind as we strive to “make it real” here at VCU. ”
Subscribe to VCU News
Subscribe to VCU News at newsletter.vcu.edu and get selected stories, videos, photos, news clips and event listings delivered to your inbox.