School of Social Work

No. 28 M.S.W. Program in the U.S.

By VCU Office of Alumni Relations

Kim Young has been named by her alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University, one of the university’s top 10 graduates of the past decade.

Social work alum Kim Young (M.S.W.’13)

VCU Alumni’s 10 Under 10 awards celebrate alumni who earned their first VCU degree within the past 10 years and who have enjoyed remarkable professional success, made important contributions to their community and/or loyally supported the university. Young, director of programs at the Hive youth organization and founder of Dope Black Social Worker, graduated in 2013 with an M.S.W. from the
VCU School of Social Work.

Young spent nearly a decade as a clinical social worker, providing one-on-one therapy for youths and families. But in 2018 — “one of the worst years of my life,” she says — she shifted from clinical services to working for systemic change.

“I had three young people die, two by violence and one that was fatally struck by a vehicle leaving work,” Young explains. “There’s that analogy of pulling a baby out of the river just to look up and see more coming down. I couldn’t keep doing this work one baby at a time.”

The same year, Young helped establish the first Youth Violence Prevention Week in Richmond. Since then, Young has continued to focus on “systems upstream” work. She left direct service and became director of family and community engagement at Peter Paul RVA, a community organization in Richmond’s East End that provides educational and support services.

In that role, Young helped reduce barriers that prevent youths and families from achieving success, and she designed and implemented Z-LIFE, a young adult employment and entrepreneurial program.

As a social worker, you can sit with somebody when they’re in the depths of their pain and stay with them until they get to the other side of it. There’s nothing like that.

Kim Young

This past March, Young became director of programs for the Hive, a Richmond-based organization that helps youth transition to adulthood.

In April 2020, Young formed Black Dope Social Worker to reduce social isolation among social workers. As self-styled “expert troublemaker,” she leads workshops and speaks to groups about social work, mental health and youth development. She is an advocate for more Black social workers in the field and has lobbied for licensure reform to create more equitable pathways to become a social worker.

Young acknowledges the challenges of her field. “You’re so close to people who are suffering,” she says. “You see the evils of the world.”

At the same time, she’s grateful for the gifts her work has given her. “As a social worker, you can sit with somebody when they’re in the depths of their pain and stay with them until they get to the other side of it,” Young says. “There’s nothing like that.”

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