Social Worker for the Valparaiso Police Department Samantha Burgett has been supporting the officers around her since September of 2021. Though she works in the Region now, she grew up and went to high school about an hour south. It was her undergraduate studies at Valparaiso University (VU) that brought her to the area her heart knows so well nowadays.
At first, Burgett didn’t really understand the ins and outs of social work. When she originally attended college, she intended to do nursing, but after four days of nursing school, she realized she didn’t necessarily enjoy the whole of it.
Instead, Burgett scoured through Valpo’s catalog of classes, searching for something that would fit in with what she had been doing for her entire life up to that point: social work and the organization of other programs aimed at providing the community with relief services.
“Before I came to Valpo, I designed and ran a mentoring program at my high school for junior high kids, and I even brought the National Safe Place program over. I had some experience with program development and social work, but I just didn't know the name of it. When I came here, I was looking for ways to be plugged in with the community, so I went over to Boys & Girls Club to ask about volunteer opportunities, and they wound up offering me a job. I was running the teen program there, and I started seeing a handful of the kids get arrested and detained. They’d come back acting like different kids, demonstrating negative behaviors that they hadn't previously. All of this led me to question why things would happen the way they did, and so I felt the need to start more and more programs that have since brought me to where I am today,” Burgett said.
Everybody everywhere — including people living in Indiana — needs some kind of help, and in her career, Burgett hasn’t neglected that reality. The pursuit of contentment is not an easy journey for anyone, but Burgett’s sure to always take the right steps towards providing support to those who truly need it.
“Some people need more help than others, so there's definitely a lot of difficulty, and there are barriers to being able to solve all these issues, but it's well worth it when you're able to actually help someone, walk alongside them, and see the incredible difference that they have accessing the proper resources they need,” Burgett said. “As a social worker in a law-enforcement setting, what I’m a part of is a relatively new, emerging field. It's exciting for me to be able to introduce social work within a system that has needed it for so long. It's becoming more common now, thankfully.”
Burgett’s favorite part of her job is the clients. She truly loves the people she works with, thus the environment she works in has an easy time becoming a welcoming place.
Moreover, her job has allowed her to get a bird’s-eye view of the community. In that way, social work isn’t strictly the only thing she’s doing to benefit those around her. Another macro-level venture of hers includes her goal of developing the community through the impact of compelling leadership. It’s safe to say that she’s marked all the necessary boxes in the process of attaining that, especially considering what she does outside of work.
“Through the non-profit I’m a part of, Community Change Center, we have a re-entry program running in one of the local prisons; we provide community-based mentoring and case management. We have a Unity Cafe in Valparaiso, which is really a community cafe. There, we do support groups and free community meals every Friday, along with workshops on life skills and case management. It’s really just a safe place for people to come and be in community with each other,” she said. “We also run an adult education program in Gary, as well as two transitional-living re-entry homes there, too.”
When she happens to get that time away from the job, Burgett’s busy raising her 17-year-old foster son. With that said, a lot of what she devotes herself to is her passion for getting the job done, regardless of whatever it might accomplish. Something that’s constantly assisting that desire of hers is the well-put-together community she lives in.
“I love the fact that I am consistently able to work in a community where people come together to take care of each other, particularly with my non-profit work. It never fails. Because we don’t have much funding, we get volunteers and interns and community partners that come together to make all of these services happen without fail and without money, which is pretty incredible,” Burgett said.