Community service activities point URI student to career in social work for minority families

Posted on
East Providence resident to graduate May 17; grad school is next

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 19, 2009 – When Robin Covington was kicked out of her house at age 17, her future was not looking bright. Her mother’s struggle with mental illness had caused great conflict between them. She was rebellious, and she didn’t think college was right for her.

But she had received good grades at East Providence High School, and she remembered a visit to her school by the director of the University of Rhode Island’s Talent Development program. When she applied and was accepted into the program, her life took a turn for the better. Much better.

As she prepares to graduate from URI on May 17, Covington is looking forward to enrolling in graduate school and a career as a social worker.

“I needed to get away, and Talent Development was a life changing experience,” she said of the URI program that recruits and supports minority and disadvantaged students. “They care about you there, they advise you well, and they believe in you.”

A straight-A student in high school and college, Covington majored in communication studies at URI with a minor in public advocacy, a program she created herself based on her community service activities.

Covington was a volunteer with the SMILE program – Science and Math Investigative Learning Experiences – an after-school program for disadvantaged middle school students with an interest in science. She also worked with the URI Mentor-Tutor Internship program to guide students at Hope High School in Providence.

“MTI was really an amazing experience; it showed the kids that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Covington said. “We gave them time to ask questions and helped keep them in check. And because they’re similar to me in demographics, they don’t get so fussy and they act much better when we were there. All the volunteer work I do in inner city schools is to make these kids want to further their education because they often only think about today and forget about tomorrow.”

In addition to working with students in Providence, Covington also volunteers at St. Patrick’s Soup Kitchen, an activity she continued long after she first visited with her URI 101 mentoring class. In addition to serving food, she helps clients translate their bills, apply for food stamps, and educates them about other available resources.

“I act like a hostess while I’m there, because I think they should get the best service possible,” said Covington, who received a URI Black Scholar Award and was inducted into the Onyx Honor Society in April. “I treat them like a king and a queen, because it’s not necessarily their fault what life has handed them. I talk to them and make them smile so they can have a good experience and feel that someone cares.”

These experiences have all contributed to Covington’s desire to become a social worker for inner city families. This fall she begins a two-year graduate program in social work at Rhode Island College.

“A lot of families are dysfunctional – look at mine — so I want to be the glue to help them stick together,” she said. “I want to be a social worker, clearly not for the money, but for the rewarding feeling and piece of mind that I am making a difference in peoples lives.”