Grace Kirkpatrick '13
In May of 2013, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology. I was accepted into the Hands of Hope Internship at Casa de Esperanza de Los Niños, and set off to Houston, Texas a week after graduation. For the next year, I provided around-the-clock residential care to children in the foster care system, particularly those affected by abuse, neglect, and HIV/AIDS. I was a mother. At night, I stayed awake with babies who came straight from the hospital and read books to kids who were too scared to sleep. During the day, I participated in therapy sessions, made sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and rode bikes to the playground. It was the most frustrating, tiring, and thankless work I've ever done, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. Now, I am on the long road to obtain my Masters in Social Work. Just like my time at Casa de Esperanza, my undergraduate work in anthropology exposed me to people, to cultures, to traditions that were wholly unlike my own. I truly believe that my major challenged me to see life through different eyes - dozens of different eyes, from all walks of life, past and present. Courses in religion, gender, and particularly many in African studies allowed me to learn how the traditions of the past help shape the people I work with today. I frequently encountered immigrant families in the foster care system. Instead of ignoring different cultural traditions and values surrounding children, my experience with anthropology helped me to successfully integrate those aspects into everyday life. Although the child was temporarily removed from her family, she did not have to be removed from all facets of her culture. I am proud of the work anthropology has helped me accomplish, and I hope to continue employing it in my future work in the foster care system.