Nikel BaileyHelping youth and families create and achieve goals has been the life work of Nikel Bailey, who received a AM from SSA in March 2012. She has worked with various populations including, but not limited to, Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) residents and youth and families affected by HIV/AIDS.

Having provided direct service for a number of years, Bailey is excited that as a Presidential Management Fellow she now has the opportunity to move to Atlanta. Her two-year paid government fellowship is in the Office of Field Policy and Management at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

"At SSA I chose the Social Administration Concentration because I am committed to the behind-the-scenes aspects of program management. Through my personal experience and literature reviews, I've come to the belief that housing is a vital component of stability. I can't expect a person with HIV, for example, to remember to take medication if there is no stable home," Bailey says.

Through her work at HUD, Bailey is looking forward to continuing to help disadvantaged groups of people reach their individual goals. There she expects to build upon skills she developed in her second-year field placement at Uhlich Children's Advantage Network (UCAN). One of her duties at UCAN was to create and conduct a "community strengths and needs" assessment of two CHA housing developments.

"Through such courses as those taught by, Associate Professors Dexter Voisin and Waldo E. Johnson Jr., and Lecturers Shaun Lane and Pajarita Charles, I learned to think more critically about research and my daily work at the office. Many of us in the evening program were working full time, so sharing our experiences was another way to broaden our perspectives. Many days on our jobs, my classmates and I found ourselves applying principles or using methods we'd discussed in class the night before," Bailey says.

Bailey admits she didn't know much about the University of Chicago although she grew up in Chicago, and that she didn't see herself as a social worker although she took on many direct service responsibilities even as an undergraduate. While at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign she was a major in sociology with a minor in African American Studies. Two of her off-campus jobs were working for a children's home and a county family advocacy program.

Bailey has continued her work with children, locally and internationally. She worked and also did her first-year SSA field placement at the Children's Place Association, which was the Midwest's first residential facility for children affected by HIV/AIDS. Through the International Organization for Adolescents, she more recently did research in Ethiopia that focused on orphaned youth aging out of alternative care and transitioning into adulthood.

At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Bailey recently presented a workshop about appreciating and responding to the needs of vulnerable youth that was focused on the importance of mentoring. But she does not believe mentoring has to be done only through an official program. "I make an effort to share whatever knowledge I have with anyone I come into contact with, not just my colleagues. I have had several mentors in my life from various professions who have motivated me and shared valuable information. Each of them has helped me in one way or another to become who I am today," Bailey says.

Bailey's philosophy is to go after what she wants in life by taking advantage of opportunities and resources when they present themselves, and she does her best to encourage others to do the same. "I've been able to achieve my accomplishments by not just waiting for things to come to me. Seek and ye shall find. If you're interested in going abroad, for example, don't worry about the expenses just yet. If it's meant for you, it will all work out in the end. But you'll never know unless you make take that first step of sending in your application," Bailey says.