Social work students RaeLynn Roe, Katie Curtis-Baker honored with financial award from Focus on the Future Foundation
Two social work students at Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus who were concerned about being able to complete their degree due to financial challenges are now fully focused on graduating thanks to an award from the Focus on the Future Foundation.
Seniors RaeLynn Roe, Salina, and Katie Curtis-Baker, Clay Center, are the first Kansas State Polytechnic recipients of the foundation’s Mary G. Tannahill Award worth $500. The honor is given specifically to social work students and recognizes those who demonstrate a drive to succeed in the industry as well as a fiscal need. Both women are working to complete a full-time practicum this semester and the financial gift assists with paying for educational costs or living expenses.
Curtis-Baker lost her full-time job and healthcare benefits while trying to accommodate her schedule for her practicum hours. She says the award will cover certain financial gaps, including assisting with the 60-mile commute to and from campus.
“It has alleviated some anxiety about making ends meet while I finish up my degree,” said Curtis-Baker.
Inspired by her wife who is a social worker and a foster child placed in her wife’s care, Curtis-Baker decided to pursue social work at Kansas State Polytechnic to make a difference in the issues facing today’s youth, specifically LGBTQ children and teens. For many years, she bounced in and out of various colleges and jobs, but says this program, though challenging, has developed her skills and uniquely prepared her for her career.
“This program is special because of the instructors – they have been so supportive and intentional during my journey,” said Curtis-Baker. “In class, I’m not just learning and digesting information; I’m putting it into practice, which took me out of my comfort zone at first, but I’m a better social worker because of it.”
Currently, Curtis-Baker is employed by the Boys and Girls Club of Manhattan as an outreach coordinator, helping those in foster care who attend the facility. She also assists in individual and group sessions, working on different social and emotional competencies. After graduation, she would like to pursue a master’s degree and continue supporting youth.
Helping people is more than a career field for Roe; she has put her passion into action on campus to support other students in need. Roe has been a peer tutor and a peer mentor, but she is most known at Kansas State Polytechnic for developing and implementing Cats’ Corner – a food, hygiene and clothing pantry for students. It was established when she and her faculty mentor at the time learned many Wildcats struggle to meet their basic needs while in school. Roe didn’t want students to have to choose between going to college or putting food on their table.
Originally an EMT/paramedic major at a community college, Roe left the program after realizing she couldn’t handle the sight of blood. While managing a fast food restaurant, she met a Kansas State Polytechnic staff member and some students who told her about the social work program and encouraged her to apply. Now, Roe is completing her practicum with Saint Francis Ministries in the drug and alcohol program and after graduation, will continue her work with them as an employee.
“When I got the letter for this award, I almost cried. The day before, I was sitting here thinking about money and if I was going to be able to finish or if I would have to drop out or take an incomplete,” said Roe.
Initiatives of the Focus on the Future Foundation are to assist people who have overcome major life challenges as well as support non-traditional students returning to school. The foundation’s board president says he is “thrilled to be a part of these students’ journey.”