Jazmynn Hardy was raised in Montgomery, Alabama, by her mother, Chiquita, a police department 911 dispatcher and secretary, and her grandmother Gladys Boswell, who ran a restaurant and pastored a small church where she fed the homeless on weekends.
“Between the ages of 10 and 13, I would help at the church and restaurant,” says Hardy. “I helped them make food bags to pass out. My mom and grandmother would go to the food bank, and when they returned we would pass the food out to individuals within the community. My grandmother was always working to help others with prayer and resources. I learned from her at a young age to lend a helping hand.”
In time for her grandmother’s 90th birthday in June, Hardy has completed her four-year course of study for her master’s degree in social work through a Nashville-based program from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
While working full time, she did her concentration-year internship with the West Nashville Dream Center, providing fresh produce for neighbors living in a food desert.
“We’d go to Trader Joe’s and load up our vehicles and drive them out to the communities and set up a grocery store where they can pick and choose their own food. We’d have volunteers from various places such as Belmont, Vandy, and neighborhood churches. The community would come together, and we’d let them shop and get what they needed.”
Hardy was also a founding member and co-president of the Coalition of Black Social Workers, organizing a conference in Nashville that hosted more than 100 social workers. After tornadoes struck in March, she arranged and worked with a CBSW service day in the section of North Nashville that was severely damaged.
It’s unsurprising that the CBSW won the Center for Student Engagement’s 2020 Large Student Organization Award. “Receiving this award is a testament to the commitment your organization makes to bettering our campus community and helping to engage students on our campus,” wrote CSE assistant director Jordan Smith-Porter.
Hardy graduated from Montgomery’s Brewbaker Technology Magnet High School. “I was in magnet programs since kindergarten,” she says. She went on for a degree in psychology from Faulkner College in 2009, then worked for three years on a grant from the National Institutes of Health as a research specialist interviewing low-income families in Auburn University’s Child Sleep, Health, and Development Lab.
“I was making connections with participants in the study. I heard their stories and became aware of their needs,” she says.
During those three years she also volunteered as a client advocate in Auburn’s Women’s Hope Medical Clinic. When the grant ran out, she cashiered at Home Depot for two years. She moved to Nashville in 2014, staying with a friend’s family members for two months as she found a job as a staffing specialist at HCA Parallon Workforce Solutions.
She began her Master of Social Work degree in 2016. “A friend told me about UT’s program,” she says. “It attracted me because the application process was looking more at the whole student and not just test scores.” Her first internship placement was in the social work department of Nashville’s Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School.
In 2018 Hardy started as a training and development coordinator at Nissan’s call center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In April 2020 she started as an advanced medical support assistant with the Veterans Administration in Murfreesboro, scheduling veterans’ appointments and handling problems based on her knowledge of clinical operations, policy, and providers’ preferences.
With her degree in hand, she hopes to advance in the VA, coordinating care for veterans with often-complicated social, medical, and support needs.
Maintaining a packed schedule of work, study, and volunteering over four years has been demanding.
“I have learned so much about myself in these past years,” says Hardy. “I have been stretched in ways I had no clue I would be able to handle, which included balancing an internship, full-time job, and classes. Along with the educational learning UT has provided, this program has been a life-changing experience for me. I have been equipped with the necessary skills to advocate for underprivileged populations. I have exercised various characteristics to help me become a more influential leader. And I have learned to invest in self-care practices to ensure that I maintain a long-term social work career.
“Being involved in amazing organizations such as the Coalition of Black Social Workers and Phi Alpha Honor Society, I have made great friends and created long-lasting memories.
“Even though I’m not from Tennessee, I’m supposed to be here. It’s definitely home. I have the Volunteer spirit in me.”
Brooks Clark (865-310-1277, firstname.lastname@example.org)