Long before she received one of the inaugural Phyllis Neff Social Work Scholarships, junior Emily Marks was inspired by the woman whose life and career at Crime Victims Services led the Neff family to set up the fund in her memory. It was a pleasant surprise for Marks to see the name of her new scholarship.
“It's incredible,” Marks said. “It's almost like it came full circle. She is one of the reasons I chose social work and now she is helping me continue that degree with the scholarship.”
Marks had taken a few years after high school to choose a college. She believed in herself and was ready. A mutual friend at church introduced her to Phyllis Neff to encourage Marks to think about the social work field. Marks has been marching forward as a social work major ever since.
“I have been helped by social workers in the past and if I can make a difference for even one person, I want to be able to give back,” she said. “There's a lot of bad out in the world and I want to be able to put some good out there.”
The Neff Scholarship combined with an award from the prestigious Rudd Scholarship Fund has made college possible for Marks. She is on her own, working, taking classes and hoping to graduate debt-free.
“I would not be going to college if it was not for both of those scholarships, especially now that my rent's gone up, everything has gone up,” Marks said. “It is not oversimplifying to say they are allowing me to go to college because I do not think I would continue if it was between paying for college or paying my rent.”
The Phyllis Neff Social Work Scholarship is designed to empower the next generation of social workers to carry on Neff’s legacy of compassion, integrity and innovation in the field.
“One of Mom's favorite words was ‘advocate,’” said Neff’s daughter Rachel. “Being a victim advocate was a fairly new concept in the court system in the 1980s when she started working. Hopefully, recipients of the scholarship will find encouragement in Mom's legacy and memorial garden, and potentially find inspiration for their own vision of how to advocate for those in need.”
That inspiration is already at work with Marks.
“Phyllis had a habit of going above and beyond what was required of her. She would call up the victims years after dealing with them just to check up on them especially on the anniversary or near the anniversary of the events. She had a really big heart and I just want to emulate that as much as possible,” Marks said.