As an at-risk youth growing up in Northeast Washington, D.C., Jonathan Spinks never imagined he’d be where he is today.
“College wasn’t always seen as the track I’d follow, so money wasn’t set aside for me,” Spinks said. “But I was tired of my lifestyle and I was tired of hearing people tell me I had potential I’d never meet. I wanted to do things my way but I eventually got sick of proving myself wrong.”
Spinks is a former high school athlete, and he entered the UT Austin Bachelor of Social Work program with a desire to make an impact in sports social work. He is already on this path as the first social work student to volunteer with the Texas Longhorns women’s basketball team. In this role, he leads team discussions on topics such as how to deal with trauma, social justice, mental health wellness and their love for basketball. Spinks also uses his volunteer time to investigate the appropriateness of social workers in athletic organizations and how social work students can become more involved with athletic teams across the Forty Acres.
“There’s a chance for UT Austin to break the mold in terms of coupling its athletic programs with its mental health programs, to ensure our athletes are just as mentally sound as they are physically sound to perform both athletically and academically,” he said. “The overall goal is to get to the point where the mental health of athletes is seen as serious enough that there is a very common perspective that social workers are necessary in athletic organizations.”
After graduation, Spinks hopes to enter the Steve Hicks School’s dual master’s degree program with the LBJ School, continue his work with the women’s basketball team and venture into policy.