Markie Bledsoe, MSW ’24, Awarded NASW Foundation Scholarship
For her dedication to mental health practice within African American communities, Markie Bledsoe, MSW ’24, was awarded one of six 2023-24 Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial MSW Scholarships from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Foundation.
Markie, who is in the final year of our part-time Extended MSW Pathway, said that she is motivated by her “commitment to supporting my community in the work that I do and that I’ll continue to do in my career.” She determined that social work was her path to fulfill that passion several years ago while working at a nonprofit doing restorative justice work and mediation in the Manhattan and Brooklyn criminal courts.
“The people I was working with were finding connection and a newfound understanding of each other,” Markie said, “but then they would tell me ‘my child needs mental health services’ or ‘we want to continue to have this conversation with a therapist,’ because therapy is different from mediation.” Not only was it very challenging for her to find them access to mental health services in general, it was almost impossible for her to find accessible therapists who were Black and Brown, like the community she was serving. “That is what really inspired me to want to pursue my social work degree.”
A Holistic Approach
In addition to pursuing her studies, Markie is a co-Leader of Silver’s Black Women’s Social Work Coalition, works full-time as the Program Director for Youth Justice Programs at Community Mediation Services, and is a consultant at Unsiloed, a diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting firm that uses restorative practices. She was also a 2022-23 NYU Social Sector Leadership Development Fellow and an NYU Silver Adaptive Leadership Fellow.
Rather than seeing that work as being at odds with direct practice, Markie said, “There is a lot of crossover between all of my career interests from the forensic pathway, restorative justice, policy, and providing mental healthcare to communities of color. The social work field is not as siloed as people often think. I take a holistic approach to social work. My passion for providing direct service has always been there; it always finds its way in the many spaces that I occupy.”
In her practicum placement this year, Markie will be honing her policy and organizing skills at Social Workers for Justice, an organization that aims to build the political power of social workers in New York State. In her previous practicum placement, she gained more clinical experience working with Project Restore Bed Stuy in Brooklyn. “It’s a partnership with Bridge Street Development Corporation, Columbia University and many other impactful community members and organizations to bring services to young people in street formations, formerly known as gangs, in an effort to eliminate the gun violence occurring in Bed Stuy,” Markie explained. “PRB was where I experienced the interconnectedness of the social work field on all levels along with my other passions such as restorative and transformative justice work, policy work, and more.”
After graduation, Markie sees herself continuing to work with people impacted by punitive systems but is open to exploring what that could look like. “It could be working with people coming home after being incarcerated, children with incarcerated parents, policy/organizing work, or an entirely new approach. I like the idea of reimagining what community support can look like outside the current systems.” She’s very open to the variety of possibilities the social work field has to offer through macro, mezzo, micro levels, or maybe even a hybrid. “I appreciate the vastness of the social work profession; I definitely see a combination of things in my future. I’ve always been drawn to the participatory action research framework,” Markie noted. “It’s a combination of micro and macro work, where the people directly impacted have voice and agency over the policies or research being implemented to create social change in their community; it’s really a transformative justice approach to policy and creating community-centered support.”