Graduate Kayla Sheffield driven to help others

Approximately 1,600 degrees and certificates were conferred at The Ohio State University’s summer commencement ceremony on Aug. 6 at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus. Among them were 23 associate degrees and seven bachelor’s degrees awarded to students who completed some or all their coursework at Ohio State Newark, including Kayla Sheffield who earned a Bachelor of Social Work.

“I hope and wish more people would join the social work program,” she said. “It’s a really good experience. It feels good to help your community.”

Sheffield, originally from Ohio, moved out of state yet remained a devoted fan of the Buckeye team. At the age of 18, she made the bold choice to return to Ohio. She eventually went back to school to achieve her educational goals by attending Ohio State, thanks to the unwavering support from her fiancé and three children.

After arriving in Columbus, Sheffield earned an associate degree at a community college and went to work at a “good job,” she said. But after a few years, she desired something that demonstrated a higher moral commitment. In 2021, at the age of 24, she transferred her credits and enrolled at Ohio State Newark as a social work major.

“I like the personal aspect of the classes. It’s not a class of 200; it’s a class of 30,” she described her experience at the regional campus. “I like that more personal relationship with professors, too. I feel like they can answer your questions, and the communication is more personal.”

The College of Social Work at Ohio State requires all students to complete human rights activities (HRA) to engage in advocacy and provide volunteer services to those most in need. Sheffield fulfilled her 16 hours answering the helpline at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which only fueled her desire to work full time with vulnerable populations. 

“It really humbled me. There is a lot of need in the community,” she said. “It helps me understand the other side of not just whom I work with in the field or in my residence but everyone in the community.

“At first it was something I did to meet those [HRA] hours, but it became something I loved so much that I continue doing it once per week,” she added. 

Now that she’s a graduate, Sheffield is ready to start a career she’s passionate about. She completed her field practicum this spring and summer semester at St. Vincent Haven, a 50-bed emergency, program-based shelter in Newark for men 18 and older who are homeless. Later this month, she will begin full time as a case manager. 

She has no doubts about her future, saying, “This is a career I was meant to do.”