Sierra Fair has always felt a need to help others and she decided to obtain her Master of Social Work (MSW) degree to help her do just that.
Fair graduated from Southwestern Assemblies of God University in 2017 with a counseling degree. She decided to continue her education at Newman University, a similarly small school, to pursue a versatile social work master’s degree.
“I’ve always wanted to work in the helping profession, so it kind of just made sense to work with organizations that help people on a daily basis,” she said.
The MSW program appealed to Fair because of the wide range of knowledge and skills learned and the variety in career path options it provides. An MSW degree holder can become a clinician, work as a medical social worker, work in the schools and various other careers.
Social work is something Fair is passionate about for many reasons.
“I believe that every human being deserves to be heard and cared for. I know that not everyone is fortunate enough to have people in their ‘natural’ circles that do that for them, so I feel that it is an honor to be able to walk alongside someone who is hurting and willing to let me into that part of their life. I am passionate about seeing those who have been broken become restored, and those who are lost find their purpose in the world. I believe that someone should be speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves and I want to be that someone,” she said.
Right now, Fair is working in the field full-time as the social services coordinator for the Wichita West Orchard Salvation Army. She oversees social service programs such as the food pantry, utility assistance, prescription assistance and other emergency services provided to low-income households or those experiencing a crisis.
Along with those responsibilities, she helps coordinate volunteers, connects with other organizations to build referral sources, helps manage social media and functions as a case manager.
“I love that my job allows me to provide hope to families and individuals who are in seemingly hopeless situations. I have watched families transform from relying on community resources to becoming fully self-sufficient. I think many people see the Salvation Army and think of kettles and toys at Christmas, but it is so much more. It’s providing support on a daily basis to those who need someone to come alongside them.”
The Newman MSW program requires a practicum experience for each student, and Fair is currently fulfilling her requirement with ICT SOS, a local organization housed within the Child Advocacy Center.
“ICT SOS works alongside the social workers, child advocates, detectives and other professionals (at the Child Advocacy Center) to provide as many services as possible under one roof to children and adolescents who have experienced trauma.”
Fair was creative with her two positions in a time of need. She brought her teammates from ICT SOS to the Salvation Army to volunteer at the food pantry at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. Many are becoming reliant on food pantries and volunteers are limited, so her teammates were happy to help.
ICT SOS is no stranger to helping the community. Through her practicum at the nonprofit, Fair has visited middle schools and almost every high school in Wichita, as well as schools in surrounding communities, to teach human trafficking prevention education.
“We also put together Fresh Start bags for victims of assault, children in foster care, new arrivals to group homes, etc. Some of the organizations that we deliver the bags to are Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center, DCF (Department of Families and Children), Garver House and the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners at (Ascension) Via Christi St. Joseph and Wesley Medical Center,” she said.
“I have loved my time serving with the team at ICT SOS. Throughout this year, I have had so many unique opportunities to connect with other organizations in the community, educate others on the realities of human trafficking and see firsthand the difference these connected services make in the lives of victims of abuse and neglect.”
The COVID-19 outbreak has changed the practicum experience, which is typically hands-on. Most of Fair’s work and meetings can be done at home or are virtual or minimal contact, but Fair said she is still learning.
Fair has plans to graduate in May 2021 and has no fear that she won’t be prepared for her career after.
“So far this program has stretched me in ways that I didn’t realize I could be stretched. I have been challenged to step outside of my comfort zone and believe that has greatly increased my confidence. I have had so many new experiences, while also getting to share knowledge from my own experiences to create a more enriched learning environment,” she said.
The flexible program has allowed Fair to continue her work in the community while she attends college. She is thankful for that and the flexibility of the program staff and faculty as well.
“I know that they want me to succeed just as much as I do,” she said.
She plans to take her licensing exam next year and eventually enter into private practice.
“I would like to work with victims of trauma, specifically human trafficking,” she said. “I have been passionate about this population for about 10 years now and am looking forward to serving victims and survivors in the future.”