Margaret Marion, AM '13

Rebuilding communities devastated by trauma, alcohol, and drug abuse

Margaret Marion

In her youth, Margaret Marion never considered becoming a social worker.

“I had this vision of a social workers as people who work for DCFS and take you away from your parents,” Marion explains. 

But in reality, Marion could not have been better suited to the job. As a teenager she worked with the Black Caucus Foundation as a youth ambassador. She and her fellow ambassadors would go to tobacco vendors and gas stations around her native Detroit to conduct annual compliance checks with the Youth Tobacco Act. They would attempt to buy cigarettes, and document the vendors that sold to them without asking for identification.  They wrote reports that resulted in the citations of non-compliant vendors.  And in true social service fashion, they would return six months later, in disguises, to determine if there had been any changes for the better.

“I think our goal was a 12 percent improvement in the number of businesses selling tobacco to young people,” Marion notes. “I think we came in just under that, but it was good to see the change.”

After growing up in neighborhoods devastated by substance abuse, Marion arrived at the University of Chicago in 2008 as an undergraduate English major. She switched to a human development major in hope of finding her studies more personally meaningful. Many of her readings for class, plus her volunteer work at the University Community Service Center, changed Marion’s view of social workers and opened the door to a fulfilling career. Soon she began investigating graduate programs in social work, and quickly decided on SSA because it offers a core curriculum that allows students to become familiar with the history of the profession, current theories and approaches, and its direction for the future. Also, the opportunity to take classes in policy and other related areas is something that was not available in many of the competing programs.

“The hardest decision I had to make when I was applying for the AB/AM program was whether to become an administrative or clinical student,” Marion says. “I understood that whichever track I chose, I would still have room to pursue classes in the other track that fit in with my academic and professional goals. Ultimately, I chose clinical because of its concentration in alcohol and substance abuse.”

Marion completed her second-year field placement in the counseling office of United Neighborhood Association Major P. Hector Garcia MD Charter School in Archer Heights.

“This placement offers me great freedom and guidance in the construction of my roles and responsibilities,” she explains. “My field experiences have been  closely connected with core coursework. My major assignments were based on understanding the agency context and how the core concepts and values of the profession unfold, or don’t, in an agency setting. Combining these experiences helped in understanding the profession.”

Marion is hoping to return to Detroit to work in community building and youth development, with a special emphasis on rebuilding communities devastated by alcohol and drug abuse.