By Paul R. Pace
While Tamara Harris, LSW, has a background in finance, her second career is a first-generation social worker. In addition to helping people improve their mental health, her other passion is supporting education, particularly aiding first-generation college students achieve success.
Harris is fulfilling that desire by having her foundation, the Tamara L. Harris Foundation, donate to the NASW Foundation’s Verne LaMarr Lyons MSW Scholarships program. The Harris Foundation’s gift increased the amount and the number of scholarships from four to six.
Harris believes it is paramount to help students who are challenged financially. Such aid can catapult these students on a trajectory that can impact thousands of lives for the better, she says. Her foundation, of which she is president, inspired her to go back to school to earn a social work degree so she could better understand the mental health aspect of helping people.
When thinking about what kind of philanthropy she wanted to support, it was a natural fit to donate to the Lyons scholarship program, she says, as it supports students doing research and studies that impact communities of color.
“As a Black woman, as someone from the Caribbean, who has lived overseas and dealt with so many different cultures, I truly understand the impact of that work,” says Harris. She has seen the benefits of the Lyons Scholarship and has served as a panelist for the Social Work HEALS Student Policy Summit.
“It’s been wonderful to see the students who have benefited from that support,” Harris says. She also appreciates that the program benefits students more than just financially. It is also about supporting their professional development by giving them the opportunity to attend conferences, partake in a cohort, and prepare for success in their careers. Harris hopes the students who have benefited from the scholarships pay it forward to help other students in the future.
“There are always ways you can impact a student on their next trajectory,” she says.