When veterans return home from military service, they may find challenges as they transition to civilian life, from physical ailments and mental health issues to struggles with employment. IU South Bend graduate student Kelly Griffin, set to receive her Master of Social Work this spring, is committed to using her education to serve her fellow veterans. I wanted to get my degree in social work so I can help other vets and other people who are marginalized in the criminal justice system, explains Kelly.
A self-described military brat, Kelly grew up in Hawaii, where her father served in the United States Army as a mechanic. After high school, she decided to follow in his footsteps. I knew I wasn’t ready for college, so I decided to join the army and do the same thing as my dad - even though I had no mechanical skills and didn’t even know how to drive a car, says Kelly.
Kelly’s determination during her military training paid off, however, and she went from being unable to drive a car to serving active duty in the Army as a 52D-Generator Mechanic and a 63B-Light-wheel vehicle mechanic. After serving for eight years in the military, Kelly earned her undergraduate degree in criminal justice and worked as a probation parole officer for 10 years. However, she ultimately felt like she wanted to do more to directly help underserved populations by addressing social issues in a more systemic way. There’s a big need for people who are passionate about things like reform to help people who are marginalized and underserved in our community, she explains.
In 2020, Kelly decided to return to college and was drawn to the Social Work program at IU South Bend. This program really gives an understanding of macro social work in the bigger picture, says Kelly. In addition to attending college full time, Kelly also works for the state of Indiana as a Disabled Veteran Outreach Program Specialist where she assists veterans with significant barriers to employment find meaningful opportunities.
As Veterans Day approaches this month, Kelly plans to honor the holiday with thoughtful contemplation and fellowship with other veterans. For me, it’s a time of reflection, a time to remember friends who have passed, to get together with other vets to trade stories, laugh, and remember the good and the bad.