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Tonya Bailey-Curry, 2017 Featured Graduate

portrait of Tonya Bailey-Curry

Even as her children attended college, Tonya Bailey-Curry worked toward her own degrees, graduating from Central Maine Community College before coming to USM. She earned her undergraduate degree in social work at USM's Lewiston-Auburn College before earning her Master of Social Work on the Portland Campus.

Degree/s: Master of Social Work

Place of birth: Lewiston, Maine

Hometown: Lewiston, Maine

What led you to pursue your education at USM? I grew up in a family that believed deeply in the value of public education and the importance of service to others, so studying at USM in the School of Social Work allowed me to honor both of those beliefs and to stay true to what I know to be right.

Have you had an experience at USM that you feel changed your life or your view of the world? Through my program of study, I am fortunate enough to have had many life altering experiences, but the most impactful experience by far was the study abroad trip to South Africa. That experience pushed me to be truly vulnerable and open to connecting with people I did not know in ways I did not think were possible. That level of vulnerability allowed me to fully appreciate my own life and the people in it. I thought studying abroad would allow me the opportunity to deepen my understanding of people in different environments and it did, but what it also did was allow me to meet the very best version of myself. That trip made me look at the world and see the true goodness in people and the beauty in human connection. It was a confirmation of my life and my choice to pursue a degree in higher education. I now walk through life forever changed.

What are your future plans? In my immediate future, I am going to take a deep breath and enjoy this accomplishment. Soon after that I will begin my new role as the Director of Family and Peer Programs at a local non-profit. However, I consider myself to be a lifelong learner so stay tuned. I could be back.

Is there anyone you'd like to thank? This achievement is certainly not done alone so the thanks are many. First, I would to thank my parents who taught me the power of words and the importance of knowing how and when to use them. Everything I have done in my life is a direct reflection of their guidance and sacrifice, and I hope I have made them proud. To my husband and children who have only had parts of me throughout this journey, 'thank you' could never be enough. To the School of Social Work faculty, staff, and students, thank you for your words of encouragement and your tireless support as you kept me going in some truly tough times. To my LAC "family", "it takes a village", it really does, so I thank you for being my people right from the start. Lastly, but surely not least, many thanks to Professor Michelle Vazquez Jacobus, Dr. Tara Coste, and Dr. Paula Gerstenblatt for unwavering support and direction through some of my most difficult times. Students may be attracted to a university by affordable tuition costs, convenient locations, and instruction modalities, but they stay because of the people. Thank you all for reminding me of this!

To see all of our 2017 Featured Graduate profiles, click here.