Advancing her education to help kids and families

Marande Buck
Degree: Master of Social Work, Helen Bader School of Social Welfare
Hometown: Milwaukee
It’s a fact: Buck is active with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. and is her chapter’s coordinator for Stork’s Nest, a program that provides baby supplies, prenatal education and other assistance to expectant mothers in Milwaukee.

Marande Buck’s family took in countless foster kids when she was growing up. Now she carries on the tradition in her own way – by working as a foster care licensing specialist to help more children find safe and happy homes.

“I always wanted to go into a helping profession,” says Buck, who considered nursing and education before earning her bachelor’s degree in social welfare from UW-Madison.

Now Buck is graduating with an MSW from UWM’s Social Work Department. She has also earned a certificate from the department’s Child Welfare Training Program, a state- and federally-funded program that covered the cost of her degree in exchange for service to the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare. After graduation, Buck will continue to work for Saint Aemilian-Lakeside, a Milwaukee agency that contracts with the bureau.

Full-time work will probably seem like a break after four years of juggling her foster care caseload along with graduate school, a required internship and parenting her young daughter. Her baby was just a few months old when Buck’s supervisor encouraged her to go back for her master’s degree and social worker certification. With support from her daughter’s father, family and friends, she decided to dive in.

“I really, really like what I do now, but in the event that I want to go on to a higher position or a different position, having the master’s and certification will be a big help,” she says.

One of the highlights was her 10-month internship at Sherman Park Lutheran School, in Milwaukee, where she handled everything from counseling to running support groups to locating resources for families in need. “My internship was amazing,” she says. “Wherever we were needed, that’s where we went. They pretty much just threw us in there and let us get to work.”

Although the internship piqued her interest in school social work, she’s not ready to give up working with foster care families quite yet. Her experiences at UWM have already impacted the way she approaches her clients.

“I’ve worked throughout the process, so things that I learned in class I was able to implement right away,” she says. “I learned a lot about how to deal with different people, and that you can’t expect people to respond or react a certain way just because they’re foster parents. They’re humans, too. I learned you have to meet people where they are.”

Buck is most proud of the fact that she was able to finish her degree before her 30th birthday. “It took me five years to get my bachelor’s, and I initially said I wasn’t going back to school,” she says. “So being able to accomplish this before I was 30 is a big deal for me. I feel like I’m a role model for my daughter and younger nephews and nieces.”

And she encourages other working adults to go for their academic goals, even if it seems intimidating at first. “If you want to do it, just do it,” she says. “You may be waiting for the perfect time, and the perfect time may never come.”

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