Honoring the late Alicia Martinez as MSW Spirit of Social Work Award Recipient
(This article appeared in Baylor University's Community Connection Magazine)
This year, it is with great pleasure mixed with great sadness that we award Alicia Martinez with the Garland School of Social Work’s 2021 Honorary MSW Spirit of Social Work Award.
What a bright, up-and-coming leader in the field of social work we lost when Alicia passed away due to COVID-19 in January of this year. But, today, it is our great honor to recognize her as this year’s recipient because she truly was a shining example of what it means to be the spirit of social work.
Alicia was a first-generation college student determined to make an impact on people. A friend said this of her: “She’s like, ‘I don’t care if they remember my name, but I just want to know that I’ve touched them.’”
This translated well into the field of social work and into the realm of community practice, which is where Alicia flourished.
“Alicia was not only well-suited for community practice social work—the work of community planning, development, organizing, capacity-building, social change, and action—I would say she was even invigorated by it,” GSSW Lecturer Mallory Herridge said. “Alicia chose Grassroots Community Development in Waco as her internship placement this year.”
Professor Herridge said in just one semester, Alicia engaged in creating leadership development curriculum for Carver Middle school students, worked with Grassroots staff listening to citizen concerns about a new liquor store in their neighborhood, and even walked alongside them as they shared their concerns with city council members. She had a heart for her hometown Waco community.
In her recommendation of Alicia for this award, Professor Herridge said, “Both Waco and Baylor families united in their mourning of a young, rising leader lost too soon. As much as she allowed the Waco and Baylor communities to invest in her life, she invested in them as well. She interned, volunteered, nannied and served others in multiple capacities throughout her short lifetime.”
Alicia’s internship supervisor at Grassroots, Elise Jones, MSW ‘18, said Alicia was a hardworking, critical thinker that pushed her to stretch, grow, and become a better supervisor.
“Alicia was a bright light who deeply impacted our Grassroots family through her passion and enthusiasm,” Elise said. “Her openness put others quickly at ease and ensured that you felt like you really knew her moments after meeting her.”
Professor Herridge said she wrote down something Alicia said in class one, and it was this: “Investing in human relationships fulfills me.” This is how Alicia lived her life every day. This is how she connected with everyone around her. This is why she is our choice as the honorary recipient of the 2021 GSSW Spirit of Social Work Award.
Everyone that met her, worked with her, did life with her greatly misses Alicia, and the wound is still raw. There is a hole at the GSSW that can never be filled, but everyone here has committed to living life as Alicia did…with a servant’s heart, a love for humankind, and a vision (and plan!) for changing the world for the better.
And it is in that spirit and in memory of Alicia, the GSSW Spirit of Social Work Award will forever be known now as the Alicia Martinez Spirit of Social Work Award. Her legacy will live on at the Garland School of Social Work.