Jamie Younger ’17 ’18 MSW traveled a rocky road on her path to becoming a clinical social worker. But she says her experience battling cancer during her time in graduate school taught her that she can overcome any challenge that comes her way.
Younger is now a student services coordinator at P.M. Wells Charter Academy in Kissimmee where she helps students get evaluated for exceptional education services, works as a 504 plan coordinator, helps students with their mental health needs, and trains all of the staff on mental health as the mental health liaison for the school.
Following her graduation with a bachelor’s degree in social work in 2017, she entered into the “advanced standing track” for her master’s degree in social work at UCF, where she would be able to earn her MSW in just one year. Younger was excelling in the program when she entered her final semester in spring 2018.
Two weeks later, she received devastating news that she thought would derail her future; she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
“I’m not going to be able to finish. I’m going to have to drop out,” Younger said, reflecting on her initial thoughts, fears and worries following her diagnosis.
With the news of her diagnosis, Younger approached Maxine McGregor, one of her instructors in the program, and expressed her fears on being unable to continue. McGregor told Younger that the program would support her to ensure her timely graduation.
“That really motivated me,” Younger said. “Sure, it’s a roadblock, but it didn’t stop me; I just navigated around it.”
Younger continued to go to her classes, bound to a wheelchair and armed with her books and a mask— even before masks were made fashionable by COVID-19. Fighting through the pain and exhaustion that she was experiencing from cancer treatments, she was determined to keep up with her school work and classes.
On graduation day in May, Younger cried as she prepared to walk across the stage with her classmates – an accomplishment she had doubts would happen.
“It was really emotional,” she said. “All of my professors stood up and cheered for me. My whole family, the entire MSW class was cheering for me because they knew what I went through. I had the loudest cheers in the auditorium.”
On July 16, 2018, Younger was declared cancer-free. The next day, she went on a job interview for her current position. She credits her internship experience and education at UCF for preparing her for her career.
Through the whole experience, she learned an important lesson about perseverance and support from others. It’s a lesson she tries to pass on to others.
“Continue to fight forward,” Younger said. “Don’t ever give up on yourself.”