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Human Services students attend national conference in San Diego

San Diego group 1
Brewton-Parker College’s delegates greet the delegates from Mercer University and Kennesaw State University who were recognized at the National Organization for Human Services’ convention in San Diego. Standing from left are Dr. Winnifred Whittaker, Jessica Broughton, Prof. Judith Slater of Kennesaw State University and president of NOHS, Dr. Kyra Osmus of Mercer University, Janet Smiley, Stephanie McLeod and Shavon McWilliams. The lady in front of Dr. Whittaker is Prof. Marna Burns of Mercer University. (Photo provided)

Kelley M. Arnold

Director of News and Public Information

MOUNT VERNON—Four Brewton-Parker College students took a trip of a lifetime earlier this semester; a trip that will influence their professional and personal lives for years to come.

The psychology and human services students and their professor, Dr. Winnifred Whittaker, assistant professor of sociology and human services, attended a national conference in San Diego for the National Organization for Human Services. The conference’s topic was “The Transformative Potential of Human Services: An Agenda for Systems Change”.

Mission Bay post card
A view of Mission Bay, San Diego, a popular natural landmark. (Postcard provided)

“They attended several workshops that were geared toward students in the human services major,” Dr. Whittaker said. “It was good to see them meet other students and professionals in the field. The students enjoyed it tremendously. I enjoyed listening to them as they got excited about the different workshops.”

Shavon McWilliams, a senior psychology major, called the conference “mind-altering” and “eye-opening”.

“I attended a workshop that talked about how your mind controls your behavior and expectations. It explained how you have to break free from the prison of your mind. One example is when you meet someone for the first time and (based on) a person’s face or expression, we could form a negative opinion of that person before we even speak to them. You don’t really know what they’re thinking and you can have a negative reaction to them without even meeting them,” McWilliams said. 

“Overall after that workshop, I felt fresh and crisp because I had never heard that examination of expectations, not even at church.”

San Diego Group 2
Brewton-Parker College delegates to the National Organization for Human Services conference in San Diego are, from left, Shavon McWilliams, Jessica Broughton, Dr. Winnifred Whittaker, Stephanie McLeod and Janet Smiley. (Photo provided)

Jessica Broughton, a senior human services major, was most impressed by a workshop on crime statistics and overcoming poverty and status quo.

“What changed me was the example of a videotape we saw in one of the workshops. This man went into a community with an extremely high crime rate and taught the people that they had the power to do something – as a community – about the drug dealers and other problems. They now have a zero percent crime rate,” she said. “These people realized they could take action and get the drug dealers out. It was the imprisonment of their mind, their consciousness, that kept them where they were. They realized those walls are not concrete; that you can free your mind.”

“(This conference) has changed me spiritually,” Broughton added. “I want to start a mentoring program, implementing the ideas I learned there, and show people that the only thing holding them back is themselves.”

San Diego skyline post card

A view of the San Diego skyline. (Postcard provided)

Stephanie McLeod, a senior human services major, agreed with Broughton. She, too, was most impressed with the workshop on poverty. Like Broughton, she’s excited about putting the information she learned to work in her career after she graduates.

“It wasn’t really what I expected since it was the first time I’ve ever attended a conference,” McLeod said. “The thing that stuck out most was the workshop on the ‘Poverty Trap’. The statistics on poverty – on what amount of income is designated as the poverty level – was incredible. It’s amazing to know the number of people who are living in poverty. The workshop talked about setting goals and ways to get out of poverty. I really learned that it’s the role of human services to help people break free and to help people come up out of their (situations).”

In addition to the life-changing experiences of these innovative workshops, it was also a trip of firsts for these Georgia students: the first time to ever visit California and the first time on a plane for two of the students.

“The flight was… nerve-wracking,” said Senior Janet Smiley, also a human services major. “It was the first time flying and I had a ‘minor’ anxiety attack.”

Smiley emphasizes the word “minor”, to the laughter of her peers, leading one to believe that her first time in flight was a bit of a “major” hurdle for her. However, once Smiley overcame her fear of flying and her feet were firmly on the ground in San Diego, she enjoyed her trip.

“San Diego was nice, very interesting,” she said. “Just the thought of being in California was exciting. It’s one of the places I’ve always wanted to go. The workshop that I liked best was the social justice-based study abroad where I learned about schools joining forces to teach high school programs and teacher and student exchanges. It was also the first time I’d heard about master’s programs in human services.”

Brewton-Parker College’s representatives were joined by other academic representatives from the southern states, including Georgia contingents from Mercer University (Macon) and Kennesaw State University, said Dr. Whittaker. While they were in San Diego, during a day of free-time, they were able to visit several local landmarks and take in a favorite pastime – shopping.

Dr. Whittaker and the students also acknowledge and thank the generous contributions of local community members for this trip.

“Without these businesses and the Student Affairs Office at Brewton-Parker, we would not have been able to go,” Dr. Whittaker said.

Contributing businesses included CBJ Foods Inc. (Zaxby’s) and Craig Johnson; Lyons First Baptist Church and Rev. Dannie Williams; Oconee River Produce, Inc. and Rick Berry; Vidalia Federal Savings Bank and Hal Chesser; and, Webster Motor Co., Inc. and Bob Webster. Dr. Whittaker added that the Brewton-Parker College insignia clothing they wore on the trip were provided by Dr. Lee Cheek, chair of Dr. Whittaker’s division, the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

To learn more about the human services major at Brewton-Parker College or the conference, contact Dr. Whittaker at 912-583-3152 or contact the Division of Social & Behavioral Sciences at 912-583-3151.



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The mission of Brewton-Parker College, a Georgia Baptist college, is to develop the whole student through the application of Biblically-centered truth to a liberal arts curriculum in a community of shared Christian values.
Brewton-Parker College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate and baccalaureate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Brewton-Parker College.
Updated on: April 15, 2010 8:26 PM