Kenton Kirby, MSW '11, Named "Emerging Social Work Leader" by NASW-NYC

Kenton Kirby
Kenton Kirby

Kenton Kirby, MSW ’11, has received a National Association of Social Workers, New York City Chapter (NASW-NYC) Emerging Social Work Leader award, which recognizes social workers early in their careers who have demonstrated outstanding leadership.

Since 2014, Mr. Kirby has been the Director of Trauma Support Services for the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, a neighborhood institution that works to improve community problem-solving, collaboration, and inter-group relations in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods. He is also the Program Director for Make It Happen, a program that works to give young men between the ages of 16 and 24 who have experienced violence the tools necessary to overcome traumatic experiences, and enable them to succeed in spite of those experiences.

Mr. Kirby was previously a forensic social worker in New York State’s court system and, prior to pursing his MSW at the Silver School, was working in the city’s Administration for Children’s Services. He explained, “The experience of being part of the child welfare system and seeing first-hand how oppressive and self-perpetuating the system can be for children and families led me to want to get my MSW. As a social worker, I wanted to be a voice of change, an advocate who can interrupt systems and let people oppressed by them know the resources available to them. With my degree, I can do that, especially in the role I am in now.”

He explained that the young men of color the Make it Happen program supports have the highest rate of both victimization and incarceration; however, their trauma often goes unrecognized and untreated. “We are changing the narrative about these young men, and helping them see that their past trauma does not define them. Make it Happen provides the safe space and tools they need to support each other and find their own strength as black men so they can move forward in their lives.”

The trauma-informed approach that is the underpinning of his work is something Mr. Kirby said he learned at the Silver School. He noted there are many other lessons that have stayed with him in his career as well. “My Practice teacher, Dr. Ralph Depalo, taught me to be an eclectic practitioner able to use aspects of different treatment modalities with clients depending on the challenges they face. And my Policy II teacher, Dr. Robert Hawkins, helped me to see beyond the direct practice I do with my clients to the systems that are impacting them.”

In the future, Mr. Kirby hopes to develop nationally-implemented trauma-informed programs. As an Emerging Social Work Leader recognized by NASW-NYC, he is well on his way.