By Eric J. Greene
As a teen mom, Nikeesha Settles did not attend college immediately after graduating from Battle Creek Public Schools in 1992. With a new baby at home, she had other pressing responsibilities at that time in her life.
“I always wanted to go to college, but no one in my family had ever been to college, so I never had anyone telling me, ‘You’re going to go to college,’” she said.
More than a decade later, with two young boys at home, Settles decided it was time to enroll at Kellogg Community College and begin a professional career. When she started at KCC in 2005, she was initially interested in human resources, but after taking an introductory class in Human Services and meeting Dr. Sheila Matthews, she was hooked.
“The program taught me about myself, which opened so many doors for me. It taught me to love myself and that I could be who I wanted to be, and I’m hoping to do that for others,” Settles said.
As a student, Settles was inspired by Matthews, the program’s coordinator and lead faculty member. She also connected with the late Steve Severin, who once accompanied Settles to a meeting regarding a local school district’s educational plan for her son.
“The professors at KCC truly make a difference,” Settles said. “I love KCC. I do.”
From student to teacher
In 2007, Settles earned an Associate in Applied Science in Human Services degree at KCC, then transferred to Western Michigan University, where she earned a Bachelor of Social Work in 2009. She then joined the growing field of social work and today works in family preservation and support for Family and Children Services in Battle Creek.
And since 2013, she has regularly taught Human Services classes at KCC as an adjunct instructor. Once the student, she is now the teacher, passing on knowledge about behavioral modification, communications in helping relationships, culturally sensitive practices and strategies to help at-risk youth.
Settles lives in Battle Creek with her husband and three sons. She said she intends to stay in Battle Creek – her lifelong home – and contribute to the positive changes that are happening in the community.
In her practice as a social worker and in her classroom, Settles is particularly interested in developing a sense of empathy within certain professions, including child protective services.
“I get to pass my passion on to the students. I want them to have that level of empathy that Dr. Matthews’ program provides,” Settles said. “I want to bring the human aspect to the work and teach my students not to see things in black and white.”
Human Services at KCC
The Human Services Program at Kellogg Community College prepares students with the knowledge and skills needed for a variety of roles in the field of human services, including with individual clients, small groups, families and special populations.
“This is the foundation of the other helping professions,” Matthews said. “Our students start here and then make the decision of where they want to go.”
Helping professions in the United States include mental health, criminal justice, human services, nursing, psychology, public health and social work.
“Whatever you want to do to work with people, we can help. People don’t always realize that about our program,” Matthews said. “Do you want to work on substance abuse? We can help. Do you want to work with foster children? We can help. Do you want to help solve the domestic violence problem? We can help. And on and on and on.”
Students who earn a KCC Human Services degree are potentially qualified for positions as a behavioral coach, case worker, family support worker, home health aide, human services assistant, mental health technician, youth worker and other jobs.
Nationally, the median pay for social and human service assistants is $33,750 per year and the number of these entry-level jobs is expected to grow by 16 percent through 2026, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Driving the demand for these workers is a growing elderly population and a rising need for social services in Michigan and across the country.
For KCC grads seeking a bachelor’s degree in one of the helping professions, popular transfer destinations include Grand Valley State University, Siena Heights University, Spring Arbor University and Western Michigan University.
Opportunities for KCC’s Human Services graduates continue to expand. In June 2019, KCC and WMU signed a program articulation agreement – building upon a major transfer agreement signed by the institutions in 2018 – that provides a direct pathway for graduates of KCC’s Human Services Program into WMU’s Bachelor of Social Work Program.
Matthews said the program at KCC appeals to students from all walks of life, including younger students fresh out of high school and older students who are looking for a new career.
For more information about the program, visit Kellogg.edu/human-services.
Note: Dr. Sheila Matthews is collecting information about past KCC Human Services graduates. If you have a Human Services degree from KCC and would like to share your story, including what you’ve done professionally since earning your degree, please contact Dr. Matthews at firstname.lastname@example.org.