Sephoko Stokes, Master of Social Work
By college standards, Sephoko Stokes is a non-traditional student. She didn’t come into Stockton’s Master of Social Work program directly after finishing her undergraduate degree, she’s not 22 years old, or even from the United States. But if you get to hear her story, you’ll soon learn she’s more than just non-traditional; she’s extraordinary.
Stokes immigrated from South Africa after going through some difficult personal life changes. A single mother of two children, she came to New Jersey for a new chapter and chose Stockton’s MSW program because it seemed like a good fit for her, and she liked the choice of classes.
“The challenges such as navigating the immigration process, finding employment, taking care of my children's needs whilst trying to gain an education and trying to assimilate felt like climbing Mt. Everest!” she said of her journey to and through Stockton.
Guia Calicdan-Apostle, associate professor of Social Work, said Stokes’ background is from a traditional family of healers who served the villages of the Free State. It was only natural that she would continue to serve her community.
Stokes has been involved in social work for some time. She began working for the South Jersey AIDS Alliance in 2016 as a community health worker. In this role, she helps provide emotional support to clients, ensuring they are engaged in care and adherent to life-saving medication. She meets clients where they are at, works with them to identify barriers to care and offers solutions to those barriers.
She currently works at South Woods State Prison as an HIV Specialist: Discharge Planning, managing cases of the incarcerated as they transition to the community.
“HIV has always been very close to my heart. I got involved with the organization because growing up in the '90s in South Africa, I have seen the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS on families and communities; children needing homes, lack of awareness, the stigma,” she said. “Additionally, HIV/AIDS disproportionately affected certain groups, and the same thing is true in the U.S. I knew I had to be part of the solution in some way.”
I believe a social work degree affords one a lot of opportunities in different settings. There is currently a great need for social workers and mental health providers in general... Stockton promised an environment that provides quality education at an affordable rate, and I’m grateful that it delivered.”
In addition to her full-time work, Stokes interns at the Center for Family Services, serving residential youth males from 13-17 years of age with behavioral and mental health challenges. She also volunteers for Parents, Inc. of New Jersey on the family helpline for parents who are distressed and looking for resources and those parents who want to talk to somebody. After graduation, Stokes is focused on taking and passing the LSW exam and continuing her work in the community.
“I believe a social work degree affords one a lot of opportunities in different settings,” Stokes said. “There is currently a great need for social workers and mental health providers in general.”
Stokes said she will miss the people the most after leaving Stockton, including the friendly staff in the food court and security at the AC campus; the unwavering support from and bonds created with her cohort; and the support, encouragement and knowledge shared by her professors.
“Stockton promised an environment that provides quality education at an affordable rate,” she said, “and I’m grateful that it delivered.”