Parent Teacher Magazine Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools March/April 2018 - Page 11

School social worker of the year has passion for social justice, students Tulani Vaughn is the N.C. School Social Worker of the Year Tulani Vaughn, who is a social worker at West Charlotte High, spent many weeks one summer trying to track down a student who’d dropped out of school. “I chased her all summer long,” she said. “I’d stop by her house two or three times a day, early in the morning, late at night.” Vaughn finally caught up with the student, who agreed to return to school. She did extremely well, making the honor roll. “She asked me, ‘Who comes to someone’s house at 7:30 in the morning? Are you crazy, lady? It’s summertime! Who cares that much?’ And I said, ‘I do.’” That care for students is the reason Vaughn has been named North Carolina School Social Worker of the Year. She received the award at the state social worker conference in Greensboro in October. Social workers are nominated by region and then evaluated by their peers. Vaughn said being recognized by her peers is the ultimate honor. “This is probably the most substantial award I could have received,” she said. “To be honored by people who do what I do and understand the job.” Michele King, social work specialist, said Vaughn is highly deserving of the award. “She is dedicated to enriching the lives of students,” she said. “She is determined to advocate and support students who may not have a strong voice for themselves and empowers parents by providing knowledge and direction. The award is given in memory of Gary L. Shaffer, a former professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “He was instrumental in terms of helping social workers get into schools and making sure we have credentials to do so,” said Vaughn. “He was a pioneer of school social work in North Carolina.” Vaughn grew up in New York in what she describes as a “family of activists.” She said her background helped shape her career decisions. “I was raised during an era where protests and riots were all focused on social justice. I had an older sibling who was a social activist and I wanted to find the best way to help improve people’s lives.” She earned her bac