Social Work Spotlight: Meet Social Work Student Senate Representative AeYanna Yett
To say the life of a social work student can be hectic is an understatement. But for Dual-title Master of Social Work and Infant Mental Health (MSW-IMH) student AeYanna Yett, the energy of getting involved feeds her passion for helping others. Born and raised in Detroit, AeYanna is looking forward to her new role collaborating with student leaders across campus as the 2022-23 WSU School of Social Work Student Senate Representative.
While at Wayne State, AeYanna earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in African American Studies. This year she will be completing her MSW-IMH degree with a concentration in Innovation in Community, Policy and Leadership (ICP-L) and then plans to pursue a Doctorate in Community Psychology.
Why did you choose to study social work?
Social Work chose me! I am a second-generation social worker following the footsteps of my mom, who showed me the importance of caring and advocating for others and using my position as a place of power to bring change. Additionally, I place great value in social work values and ethics, especially as they align with who I am and the lifetime impact I would like to achieve.
Why did you choose to attend WSU?
I attended WSU as an undergraduate and in this experience, I worked under Associate Professor Carolyn Dayton as a research assistant in her Infant Mental Health lab. Being supported by faculty and students in the School of Social Work from her lab made me feel welcomed and confident to choose WSU again to pursue my social work degree.
How do you empower social change in your community?
Empowering social change is salient to the impact I want to have in life. I center liberation and love in everything that I do, as I work in the community with others to bring justice to all underrepresented communities and especially those my identity finds community in.
In the past, I was privileged to work with Wayne State’s Humanities Clinic with Associate Professor Tam Perry learning about the needs of seniors in Detroit, which opened the door for me to collaborate with and support so many amazing individuals doing much-needed work throughout Metro-Detroit and the country. Recently, I completed the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Fellowship with Authority Health, which is an amazing opportunity that promotes social innovation as a tool to positively impact the social and political determinants of health. Within my involvement in this fellowship, I was able to develop and implement Project Metamorph-SIS, which is a culturally-rooted community healing project that prioritizes wellness and works to provide equitable access to mental health care for Black women survivors of trauma in Metro-Detroit. I am continuing this work with the SASHA Center wherein I am facilitating the Metamorph-SIS Book Club, which centers community healing, identity development, and consciousness-raising and exploration for Black women survivors of sexual assault through reading anthologies and books.
Currently, I serve as Chair of the first-ever African American Coalition in Sterling Heights, MI, the first of its kind in all of Macomb County. This coalition serves to be a beacon of support in the community, fostering a culture of belonging as we serve as an unwavering advocate for all Black individuals in every facet of Sterling Heights. This year, we hosted the city of Sterling Heights’s first-ever Juneteenth Celebration (hero photo above), through which we educated our community about the history of African Americans, showcased and supported Black business owners and associations in Macomb County, and celebrated our presence in the community.
I am also participating in a mentorship program with Net Impact’s Black Professional Chapter, an organization founded on uplifting and supporting the future of sustainability and social entrepreneurship, to learn more about social entrepreneurship and further develop and bring my business plan (which was explored and written in Marijo Upshaw’s Social Entrepreneurship class) to life!
Why have you chosen to serve as the Social Work Student Senate Representative?
During my time at WSU, I discovered my voice, my calling, who I am, and the way I want to contribute to this world. This growth has also been greatly influenced by the School of Social Work. The encouragement and affirmation that I have gained from my peers and professors have given me the strength to pursue my knowledge acquisition, community work, and achievements. Becoming a representative of the School has allowed me to give back the influence of these experiences to my student community with a deep sense of gratitude. Serving my friends and student community is an invaluable experience, and I'm thrilled to be able to represent our School!
What are the goals you hope to accomplish as a Student Senate Rep?
- To bring Social Work to the spotlight as a major contributor to the University's mental health initiatives.
- Advocate for more opportunities of multidisciplinary collaboration between interpersonal and macro-level students.
- Strengthen the community engagement initiatives within the School of Social Work's student population.
Why is it important for students to get involved?
The best way to know what kind of impact you want to have in the world is to show up and get involved in your community! Community is wherever a group of people with shared characteristics congregate—which means, you can find community anywhere. Even in our School! Get involved in our Student Alliance, student organizations, and/or our Social Work Student Research Community. As the Social Work Student Senate Rep, I also encourage students and peers to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions, comments, ideas, or concerns. You never know who you will meet or where your experiences may take you. I surely had no idea what I would be doing! By showing up authentically and adding where I could, I was able to reach places I never would have imagined.
Any advice for current students?
As social workers, our currency is not only in relationships, but how healing occurs in these relationships—whether that be the person we are intervening with as their therapist or the community we are representing when advocating for change. With healing comes authenticity, which values how real we show up with ourselves and with our work, relationships, and interactions with others. My advice for us students is to show up authentically in everything you set your mind, heart, and hands-on. By being ourselves, we welcome healing, learning, direction, and transformative growth, which helps us apply all that we are to change the world around us. And in showing up authentically, we must practice tenderness! Tethering ourselves in tenderness with others is not only empowering, but it allows us to see the humanity in all of us, no matter our differences. Practice this in classrooms, when interacting with each other, or contributing to the world. You never know whose heart you will touch or who will touch yours in the process!
What is one interesting thing we don’t know about you?
An interesting thing about me that no one would know is that in my free time, I love gardening, cooking, and carpentry! I love growing and woodworking and seeing the things that I build or tasting the foods that I grow. My favorite joke about myself is that I am very farm-to-table, meaning that I love gardening, using the herbs and vegetables that I grow to cook or bake with, and building the table for all of us to eat at!
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