I was raised in West Corners, NY, what I like to think of as the suburbs of Endicott, but what my friends who I made during the BU MSW program who grew up on Long Island rather consider the “sticks”! Born and raised in Broome County, I was like many local high school students and all I wanted to do was to get away from home and to get out of Broome County or what we considered then as “Doom County”.
After graduating high school, I was all set to leave home, and head off to a private college in NY, but due to a family situation, at the last minute I had to stay in “Doom County “and begrudgingly went to “Front St” high, otherwise known as Broome Community College. I did my best to get through BCC as quickly as possible and then went on to my goal of getting away from home to SUNY Oswego. I spent one semester there and surprisingly all I wanted was to be home- what I once considered “Doom” County was the only place I wanted to be. Home was familiar and comfortable and I was starting to realize was not so bad after all. There was more freedom living at home and living with seven others in a suite was not all that it was cracked up to be.
Upon returning home, my parents were less than thrilled and told me to get a job or to get back enrolled in school. I went back to BCC for a semester, worked hard getting my grades up and applied and was admitted to Binghamton University’s Human Development Program. I spent a lot of time during my undergraduate experience wondering if staying at home was the best decision. I saw the connections that were being made amongst the students who lived on campus and felt isolated. What that isolation socially on campus allowed me to do though was to spend more time working in the community, and what I now realize was the foundation for where I am today.
As a part of the Human Development program I had to complete a field practicum. During this practicum, I worked in a school setting with a teacher and a social work who worked very collaboratively. Seeing both of them in action I was torn about what my next step would be- a Master’s degree in education or in social work.
Looking back- I tried to take the easy way out, I was born into education. My mom is a teacher. I grew up in early childhood settings, later teaching in those settings and finally substitute teaching in the public schools. I had a comfort with teaching and therefore started Binghamton University’s Master’s in Education program. I completed one semester and that was all, it was a great program, but it was not where my heart lied.
I took a semester off and worked, continuing to build my professional foundation. I then applied and was accepted to Binghamton University’s second full time cohort of the MSW program.
My time spent in the MSW program was a gift. The friendships and the social experiences which I yearned for during my undergraduate time at BU were now being fulfilled. Many of those friendships are still in tact and some have even become professional connections in the community. I learned so much about myself as a person and as a practitioner through the MSW program. I was blessed to have been taught one of my very first MSW classes by Dean Bronstein herself, who I might add was a tough grader! I was lucky enough to be hired through my second year internship and worked at Lourdes Hospice for nine years doing intimate valuable work.
Although I was loving the work which I was doing at Hospice, about two years ago, I started to have the seven year itch of wanting to do something more. I had the privilege of being a field supervisor for BU’s MSW program and found that the more I worked with students in the Hospice settting, the more I missed academia. I knew that the PhD program was getting going at BU CCPA, but with 2 children under the age of four and having to work full time that just didn’t seem feasible. I then received a call and was asked to join the faculty at BU as an adjunct lecturer. I eagerly accepted the position.
Going back into the classroom, for the first time was scary, I’m not going to lie, but it was exciting and rewarding at the same time. I found that working with the MSW students was rejuvenating for myself and for my practice in the field as well. That first summer went well and I was asked back a second summer. At this time I was really feeling like I needed a change, so much of a change that my family was very seriously considering moving South and escaping Binghamton’s winter! As we toyed with this decision I was given an even bigger opportunity and was asked to join the MSW faculty as a full time lecturer.
Eleven years ago I was forced to decide whether or not I wanted to be a teacher or a social worker and now I have the privilege of being both! The county I was so eager to leave has provided myself and my family with so much! I am proud to share with my students that I am a Broome Community College, a Binghamton University Human Development and Binghamton University MSW graduate. I sit in awe as I write this looking back upon the journey. The chair which I sit in was one I hoped to sit in someday, I just never dreamed the day would be today. I attended my first CCPA staff meeting this morning and left even more excited about all of the work which my colleagues do and for the passion which they have for Binghamton University, more specifically the CCPA.
I know my children may grow up and all that they want may be to leave “Doom County”. It is my hope that as Broome County continues to grow and change for the better with the influence of the CCPA that my children will sport Green and White and be Bearcats as well one day! I have learned the long way that, “There truly is no place like home” and for me home is Binghamton University. I just need to buy better snow boots!
Sarah E. Hopkins, LMSW
Full Time Lecturer, Department of Social Work
College of Community and Public Affairs