Mississippi Valley State University graduate has a Head Start on becoming a licensed social worker


Kendra Newton
Oxford Stories

A Vicksburg native who earned a bachelor’s degree in social work and now works with Head Start children is also working on her master’s degree to become a licensed social worker.

Courtney Nicole Barnes, 22, graduated from Mississippi Valley State University with a bachelor’s degree in social work and an associate’s of arts degree from Hinds Community College.

She now works as a family case worker for Cedars Head Start Center in Vicksburg, ran by the Agency of Mississippi Action for Progress Incorporated.

Barnes is a member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority, Phi Alpha Honor Society for Social Work, and a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

She attended elementary through high school in Vicksburg. She said she likes to help, encourage and empower people to live up to their full potential. She works closely with others in case management.

Her hobbies include writing poems, reading self-reflection books, and spending quality time with family and friends. As an employee at Cedars Head Start Center, her duties as a family case
worker are managing files for children in her unit.

She keeps records of any incident involving children that happens in school and keeps the child’s file updated with proper
documents. She also makes sure the child attends school regularly and schedules monthly parent meetings.

“If the child isn’t attending school regularly, then I would do a home run, check to see if the child is in a stable
environment, and go from there with the necessary actions,” she said.

Barnes said the biggest lesson she’s learned about the workplace is that the way you communicate with people is very important. Knowing how to relay information in a positive manner and pointing out strengths makes the workday run smoothly.

The parents are sometimes the biggest workplace challenges when they aren’t cooperative. It makes achieving deadlines for required information difficult.

Barnes said a good workday is getting all tasks accomplished and being prepared for the next workday. A bad day as doing more tasks than she can possibly finish in a day.

She is currently working towards her master’s degree to become a licensed social worker. “I would like to work with foster
care and adoption, as well as prospective families who are interested in providing a temporary or permanent home setting for children,” she said.

With only a bachelor’s degree in social work, Barnes said she felt like she was missing out on some job opportunities.

“I got discouraged and wondered was this really the route I should have taken in life,” she said, “because I was out of work for six months after undergraduate, living at home with my
parents, and I was really down and depressed because I felt like all my hard work in college for four years felt like it was really just a waste, but I was always told good things come to those who wait.”

Barnes said when she began working at Cedars Head Start Center, she was nervous, because she was working with older women, and she was in her mid-20s and straight out of college.

She said the hardest thing is knowing that you can’t do everything in one day. Prioritizing can sometimes be very challenging.

“I thought adjusting to women who are twice my age would be a real drag because older women tend to feel like they run the place,” she said, “but I go in every day and handle every task thrown my way with class and respect, so at the end of the day, I feel accomplished.

“Knowing that I have a full-time job and the opportunity to help out other families is all that really matters, because as a social worker, I just have a soft spot for the people.”

Barnes closest friend and/or sorority sister, Sasha Kelly, describes her as a hard working and determined individual with a giving heart and a straight-forward personality.

“I met Courtney at Valley State University, and the two of us
have the same passion for people,” she said “Although I went to school for nursing, and Courtney went for social work, I feel the two can go hand in hand, because we are both dealing with society, just in a different way.”

She always talks about a quote she lives life by Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is that we are not inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”




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