A tragedy in his life helped motivate Silver Lake College senior Austin Allen-Walker to pursue a career in social work.
“One of my buddies committed suicide and I didn’t understand it,” said the Milwaukee native. “I don’t want anyone else to get to that point. I don’t want to see anyone in a situation where they feel like they can’t talk to anybody. I’m driven by wanting to help people.”
Austin’s own life seemed to be going nowhere a few years ago when a friend and alumnus urged him to transfer to Silver Lake College. He followed his friend’s advice. SLC offered him the chance to study and play basketball. It also was small enough for him to get to know faculty, staff and other students on a deeper level.
Austin, recipient of a Wisconsin Grant and several scholarships, is pursuing a major in psychology with a minor in family services. “I’m really interested in people and what causes them to do what they do,” he said.
His college experience has given him the opportunity to participate in “activities I never thought I could do,” he said.
Austin is a Resident Assistant in the dorms, where he is gaining experience in character building and leadership.
He also is working on a diversity initiative which will give groups of people an opportunity to discuss such topics as racial, gender, religious and cultural diversity. “Instead of separating ourselves from each other, I hope we learn from each other and educate the people around us, including the community,” Austin said.
He’s taken part in Silver Lake College basketball and cross country, Lakers Legislation student government, attended a student activity conference in Madison, Wis., and spoke at a campus Leadership Summit and at the college’s annual scholarship fundraising gala.
This summer he interned with the Manitowoc-Two Rivers YMCA children’s summer program called Y B.R.E.A.K., where he earned college credit in psychology while he worked.
“I chose this summer internship because it helped me understand kids,” Austin said. “There a high demand for male role models. The children responded well to me. It was a program where I could make a difference and it was fun.”
He also plans to pursue an internship in social work this school year to gain even more experience beyond the classroom, Austin said.