Phoenix, AZ – Shayla Felix is a social worker who graduated with her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Arizona State University last year, and she’s only 24!
Shayla explains that hard work in college paid off, “People think that social work is something easy to do – but it’s not, because you have to have a pretty strong heart to work in social work. You’re going to hear many, many stories from different individuals with different backgrounds, and there is a lot of diversity. It’s a difficult program and there is a lot of homework involved; it’s a lot of theories you’re learning, it’s a lot of paperwork, so if you want to do social work it’s something that has to be in your heart as a person, a strong desire to help people.”
Shayla adds, “I worked really hard to graduate so early. Beyond the time in class, you still need to do an internship while you’re doing social work and I also worked, running a youth center for UMOM. That is where I gained a lot of experience in social work, working alone and helping everybody in that community.”
Shayla was born and raised in Phoenix and graduated from Carl Hayden Community High School before attending ASU and earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. And, beyond her educational and occupational achievements, Shayla also owns her own home.
Meanwhile, after graduating from ASU, Shayla worked with refugee children in a shelter, but recently she changed jobs to gain more experience, “Right now I’m a counselor for adults whose kids were taken away from them by DCS (Department of Child Safety). So, it’s about seeing where they are at and trying to diagnose them, and learning what is going on in their life right now – so, basically it’s counseling adults at this point.”
Shayla points out that helping others, helped her to zone in on a career in social work, “When I started college I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. But, then I started volunteering at a community center in the area where I grew up, which is a very low-income neighborhood. Once I started mentoring the kids, and helping out in the community, and being able to go to those individuals houses and meet with them, and talk to them, and provide them with resources and food from St. Mary’s Food Bank – that’s when I knew that I wanted to help people out, and that’s how I got into social work.”
Shayla is among the hundreds of students who have earned scholarships from College Success Arizona, which provide up to six-thousand dollars per year for educational expenses. Students also receive specialized mentoring services provided by a team of talented “Success Advisers.” Shayla’s adviser was Myrna Cardenas:
“Myrna was very, very helpful. She always made me feel very comfortable to be able to talk about what was going on with school. Mryna also encouraged to me try really hard in school to get good grades, and she did everything possible to help motivate all of us who earned the scholarships. Meeting with Myrna all of the time – I was actually able to vent about everything that was going on in my classes, and with my life in general.”
Shayla says the financial aspect of the scholarship was also a blessing, “It was very helpful. I didn’t have to live in the dorms because I was living with my parents at that time. So, honestly the scholarship paid for all of my tuition, and I also worked which provided extra money for gas and other expenses. If I didn’t have the scholarship I probably would have had taken loans out, and it would have been more difficult.”
Shayla has some words of wisdom for middle and high school students considering their own college options and opportunities, “Be sure to talk to counselor’s and other people about going to college and ask a lot questions, so you will have a good idea of what college is about and involves. Having a mentor is very helpful if you want to know how to apply for college or apply for financial aid. Also, I would encourage students to work really hard in high school and have a good GPA, so that you can get a bunch of scholarships and be able to live in the dorms, and experience what the full college life is about.”
Since 2005, College Success Arizona has worked with nearly 1,300 students, and provided more than 16 million dollars in scholarships and success services to help increase the college attainment rate in Arizona. If you would like to be part of the mission of providing educational opportunity to high potential students from low income backgrounds, your tax deductible contribution can be made through the “Donate” button on the top of this page.