Kelsey Palmer: Empowering the Powerless to Make Real Change
by Kelsey Palmer, GLIDE Walk-In Center, MSW Intern
For as long as I can remember, I have been enamored by cities. At their best, they are innovative, dynamic, and bustling with activity. At their worst, cities can be chaotic, frightening, and dirty. The vast difference from one edge of a city to the other is a remarkable testament to humanity’s diversity, and demonstrates that one’s external environment has an undeniable influence on his or her social condition.
Within San Francisco, this diversity is alarmingly apparent. Walk a mile in any direction down most streets and you will see most kinds of people. My urban neighbors vary from high-power entrepreneurs to individuals who can’t afford to eat. I moved to San Francisco armed with an undergraduate degree in social work and sociology, but was still shocked to see the extent of class divisions here. Upon discovering GLIDE, I was enthused to find an organization that holistically attends to the needs of individuals at the margins of society.
This month, I began an internship at GLIDE as a part of my graduate work. My degree will be a Masters of Social Work through the University of Southern California, focused on Community Organization, Planning, and Administration. Specifically, I hope to be involved with GLIDE’s macro-level work that assesses, drafts, and implements programs and policies. My internship will allow for a significant intersection of my long-time interest in cities, the knowledge I’ve gained in my studies, and the professional experience I carry from previous social work positions. I anticipate that bringing these all into the context of GLIDE will strengthen me as a professional as well as brew fresh ideas for effectively serving those who are oppressed.
Throughout my time in San Francisco, I’ve had the privilege of engaging in both personal and professional work that has connected me to a variety of individuals in the city. From the undocumented and uninsured patient at SF General Hospital, to the teenager victimized by gun violence in the Bayview, to the addictively ill mother incarcerated at the County Jail – their stories have shown me the depth of need within the city. In these direct service settings, I often felt like I was putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. It helps for a time, but I’m eager to find solutions that care for the whole person and create lasting systemic change.
What motivates me to do social work each day is the hope of improving underserved neighborhoods by empowering the residents of these areas to change their community. In my lifetime, I have been privileged to have access to quality education, which is perhaps the greatest resource one can have. In study and in practice, I have learned to speak the language of those who are resourced as well as those who are not. My hope, now and long-term, is to serve as a “translator” between these two communities, connecting those with power to those who are powerless.
I look forward to the opportunities that will be cultivated in this next season at GLIDE.