Amy Hickey poses alongside a plaque commemorating LGBTQ pioneer Harvey Milk. (Photo provided)
There may have been a “significant gap” between getting her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Keuka College and going back for her master’s degree but Amy Hickey M’20 has never strayed from her passion for macro-level social work and activism.
“Social work chose me,” she says.
In the beginning, while working with at-risk youths at what is now Hillside Children’s Center, Amy collaborated with many social workers who she deeply admired. One was a new graduate in the field named Doyle Pruitt, who encouraged Amy to obtain her social work degree. Today, Dr. Pruitt directs the MSW program at Keuka College, and continues as one of Amy’s mentors.
“I always knew I wanted to help people,” Amy says, “and I’ve always known there are many ways to do that. When I was exposed to the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, they resonated with me immediately, because they align so well with my personal values and ethics.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree in 2010, Amy dove into activism and macro-level social work, founding the LGBTQ Center in her hometown of Geneva and starting the first FLX Pride Festival there. In doing so, she reached out to members of the LGBTQ community and allies, but she also had to run the gauntlet of municipal government.
“I needed to reach community leaders, stakeholders, and local policy makers – members of the Geneva government and City Council – to help secure our first funding,” she says.
That funding was the foundation for the center to be able to grow. It’s now a program of Family Counseling of the Finger Lakes.
“Close work with the city of Geneva and the Geneva city school district also helped build the foundation for future success and growth to other schools and towns,” Amy says.
Amy also worked with both Keuka College students and high school students at the LGBTQ Center and supervised social work students from the College, and now acts as a guest lecturer at Keuka College on LGBTQ issues and organizing.
During this time, Amy juggled raising her daughter as a single mom and taking care of her ailing parents. Now, with her daughter grown, and an “incredibly supportive partner,” she’s able to complete her master’s degree through Keuka College while working as a social worker at Rochester General Hospital.
She works four days a week at RGH at the Intensive Care Unit, and one day a week, she’s the social worker for the entire hospital, dealing with everything from trauma to getting someone a ride home from the hospital.
Self-care is critical, and Keuka College’s social work program brings it into practice, Amy believes.
“I love the transparency in Keuka College’s program – the high burnout rate in social workers is brought out in the open and talked about,” Amy says. “It’s important to have that balance. I don’t think I've taken a social work class – including undergrad in the traditional, on-campus program – where self-care wasn’t discussed. The importance of self-care as part of a healthy professional practice is reinforced repeatedly. As it should be.”
Ultimately, Amy hopes to teach young social workers herself, inspired by Keuka College professors like Dr. Pruitt, Jen Mealey and Julie Burns.
“Keuka College’s professors inspire, encourage, and challenge you,” she says.