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Halimah McBryde, MSW ’23

Halimah McBryde.
“I am proud to give my clients the advocacy and empowerment they deserve, and it is very rewarding to help someone through one of their most difficult times.”

Published August 17, 2023

The power of a conversation

By Catherine Donnelly

Halimah McBryde, MSW ’23, started taking college courses part time at age 13 at Erie Community College as part of her homeschooling experience. Now finished with her master’s degree, she is focused on passing her licensure exam and achieving her clinical license.

“It took me a while to narrow my career focus since I started college so young. I considered nursing as a way to help people before I realized I had a passion for counseling. Then I switched my major to psychology with a focus on helping adolescents,” says McBryde. “UB ended up being the best place for me to complete my social work degree not only because it was financially the best option, but also because it provided incredible field experiences and other opportunities I didn’t know existed.”

McBryde is a client advocate at Resources and Help Against Marital Abuse (RAHAMA), a female- and Muslim-led nonprofit in Western New York that serves immigrant, refugee and Muslim women facing domestic violence. The organization helps clients rebuild their independence by providing case management, legal support, transitional housing and counseling. 

“While I have been in the social work field for quite some time, domestic violence is fairly new to me. However, social work is the same no matter what population you work with: advocate for your client's rights, safety and needs,” continues McBryde. “I love working at RAHAMA. I first started as a case manager and ended up doing an employment-based field placement. RAHAMA is very hands-on with its clientele, and I can help my clients become self-sufficient.”

McBryde also works with Crisis Services, where she is a crisis counselor on the suicide hotline.

“Crisis Services is very fast-paced and changes with each shift,” she says. “I am proud to give my clients the advocacy and empowerment they deserve, and it is very rewarding to help someone through one of their most difficult times.”

She appreciates her co-workers at both sites who have helped her maintain a healthy work environment even though the teams are managing trauma all the time.

“Coordinating multiple needs is a critical skill in social work,” she says. “I learned to juggle many clients during a field experience at the Buffalo Science Academy, where I had a caseload of 25 teenagers. I also realized that our field needs to find ways to offer students access to mental health services outside of school so they don't have to miss class in order to get help or struggle through long breaks.”

As a UB School of Social Work student, McBryde received a DREAM (Developing Relationships through Empowerment, Advocacy and Motivation) award in recognition of her commitment to volunteering in the community and concern for the dignity of all. Her outreach as a student included volunteering with organizations like Sisters of Charity Hospital, Cornerstone Manor, Universal School and West Side Community Services (WSCS).

It was at WSCS that she discovered the power of a conversation. “The ability to give someone space and attention to express themselves is a true honor — particularly someone who is in pain or who doesn't feel supported or heard.”

McBryde is completing the Council for Social Work Education’s Minority Fellowship, which aims to increase the number of individuals trained to work with underrepresented and underserved populations at risk for mental health or substance use disorders. She is grateful for the award because the mentorship and financial support opened new doors for her in the field of social work.

“I appreciate all the experiences I had with the fellowship and for the faculty who encouraged me, particularly Christopher St. Vil, Mickey Sperlich and Tonya Myles-Day. The fellowship concludes this year, but I made new connections all over the country through the webinars and other resources. I hope my experience will help someone else to grow too. It is so important to boost diversity within the field,” she shares.