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Staying Together

Identical Twins Beginning Social Work Career Following JACSW Graduation

Grant sisters

Monika and Monique Grant have been inseparable since birth.

The identical twin sisters do nearly everything together, and May 3 is no different. On this day, they will walk next to each other while processing into the University of Illinois Chicago’s Credit 1 Arena to receive their master’s degrees from the Jane Addams College of Social Work.

The Grant sisters are first-generation college graduates whose parents immigrated to the United States from Jamaica. Upon graduation from Chicago’s Kenwood Academy, the two entered Central State University, a Historically Black College/University (HBCU) in Wilberforce, Ohio, to study psychology. They quickly discovered that the curriculum did not fulfill their goals of helping others. Having researched other courses of study, they both changed their majors to social work.

“Social work is a broad field that will allow me to constantly grow and expand my knowledge and skills,” said Monique Grant, the oldest sister by a minute. “I am passionate about guiding people in their toughest times and being a reliable resource for them to turn to. Social work provides me with the opportunity to make a significant impact on people’s lives, and I am confident in my ability to do so in various ways.”

Improving child welfare is the impetus for many social workers; that’s how Monika Grant became interested in the field. She has always felt the need to understand how children’s home lives affect their daily interactions with others. Through this she developed a love for helping families and understanding the environments in which the children are raised and their parents’ backgrounds.

“I want to help these families live more resourceful lives, encourage healthy relationships between children and parents, and be the change that many Chicago communities need,” Monika said.

Social work has a myriad of specialties, and one difference the two sisters possess is they will enter separate disciplines – Monika in Child and Family Medicine, Monique in Mental Health. Monika is interested in working within the Department of Children and Family Services or a private practice, while Monique’s passion lies in helping adolescents and adults, particularly within juvenile detention centers or private practices. She recalls how various teachers, friends and family members listened intently when she needed someone to talk to.

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I want to help these families live more resourceful lives, encourage healthy relationships between children and parents, and be the change that many Chicago communities need.

“Their words, efforts, and presence left a lasting impression on me, and I want to be that person for someone else,” Monique said. “As I grew older, I realized that mental health and behavioral challenges can happen to anyone, and being there for others during their healing journey can make all the difference. I’m dedicated to making a positive impact in this field.”

Field placements are required to receive an MSW, a practice allowing students to work in organizations that provides them with real-world experience and hands-on skills necessary to enter social service networks. Monika and Monique both performed their field instruction at SGA Youth & Family Services, giving individual and group counseling services to high school students. Monika worked at Englewood STEM High School, while Monique interned at Tarkington School of Excellence. The sisters feel the experiences they received have prepared them for a future in social work.

“My biggest takeaway is that children can overcome anything and become a better version of themselves if they have someone who believes in them, understands them, and supports them,” Monika said.

“It’s a rewarding feeling when hearing staff tell you that ‘you work well with students’ or ‘you have really helped me this year, Ms. M,” Monique said. “This really reassures me that this is what I’m destined to do.”

With their days at the Jane Addams College of Social Work ending, the Grant sisters are excited about their future but melancholy about leaving, as they both enjoyed their educational experiences.

“I’ve built great relationships with classmates and challenged them in ways that have expanded my perspective on the reality that families and children live in,” Monika said. “Children and Families Involved in the Child Welfare System was the most meaningful course during my time here besides field instruction because it allowed me to expand my perspective on the reality of what other families outside of mine go through or experience.

“The course provided me with insight and knowledge to help children and families facing mental, emotional, physical, or societal hardship and be the voice they need when no one else will listen to them.”

With an enrollment of more than 33,000 students, UIC is a large campus, but Monique Grant felt it was “welcoming, unique, and accepting of letting everyone express themselves. And my classmates were driven, easy to work with, ahead of the game, supportive and helpful. We all pushed one another.

“During my time in Jane Addams’ program, I had the privilege of studying under some exceptional professors. They were understanding, patient, resourceful, and had a great sense of humor. Their courses were challenging, realistic, and rewarding, and they pushed me to exceed my potential while providing the appropriate passion and readiness I need for a successful social work career.”