East Carolina University graduate student Priscila Hilligus, pursuing a master’s degree in social work, is a coastal district representative for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) North Carolina Board of Directors.
She represents the needs and interests of more than 370 NASW members residing and working in the district, including ECU social work students, staff and faculty.
Hilligus said that her work with the organization allows her to give back to the profession, be the voice of her fellow social workers, stay attuned to important legislative changes such as title protection in North Carolina, and expand her skills in macro social work.
Hilligus discovered her passion for social work after almost a decade in the education field. “I started my journey to social work without realizing it. When I moved to the US from Brazil, where I grew up, I experienced the hardships of culture shock and prejudice.
“My early experiences as a member of the out-group, coupled with motherhood and marriage into the challenging military lifestyle led me to seek therapy as a way to rediscover and reaffirm myself,” said Hilligus. “My therapist was a social worker…and our work together opened my mind to the field. I had been an educator for many years but social work was like a magnet pulling me.”
When she learned about the part-time master’s degree cohort in New Bern, she applied for the program. “Social work has already done so much for me. It has allowed me to embrace my ethnic identity and to explore my inner self as a path to growth,” said Hilligus. “It has also helped me to see the world through a more compassionate, relational lens and to engage people and systems for change.