February 26, 2013
Former VSU Counselor Receives Achievement Award
VALDOSTA – The National Association of Social Workers, Georgia Chapter honored recently retired Valdosta State University Counselor Sheila Wakeley with the Achievement Award during the association’s annual conference at the James H. Rainwater Conference Center Friday, Feb. 22.
Wakeley was selected to receive the Achievement Award for the mental health advocacy and support she has provided to the community for more than 30 years.
After working as a human service provider for Lowndes County Mental Health for 12 years, Wakeley became the first African American staff counselor hired at Valdosta State’s counselor center in 1993. During her time with the university, Wakeley worked with administration and staff to establish the VSU Division of Social Work. She served on the search committee to hire the division’s first president. She was also instrumental in establishing a support group for first generation college students on campus.
“For nearly 20 years, Sheila was an invaluable member of the VSU Counseling Center,” said Dr. John Grotgen, director of the counseling center. “During that time we relied on her unwavering professionalism and skill, her loving support, her wise counsel and her commitment to our students. She leaves an enviable professional legacy in all her colleagues and in her students.”
Wakeley retired in November 2012.
During her acceptance speech Wakeley thanked her husband, Melvin Wakeley, and two children, Evan and Katherine, for their support and patience. She also thanked Lawanna Barron, family advocacy outreach manager at Moody Air Force Base and a “sister survivor” of breast cancer, as well as her guests and colleagues for their support and contributions to her career.
“I will get busy again helping others because that is what my parents taught me to do,” said Wakeley. “They taught me to appreciate the value of others, not only with words but with actions. During the hard times in my career, I would always think back to the service that my parents would provide selflessly.”
Wakeley also offered some encouragement and advice to her fellow social workers.
“Allow yourself to rest,” she said. “Connect with and console those you work with, and always keep an open mind with your clients and appreciate them as individuals.”
The National Association of Social Workers is the largest organization of professional social workers. The Georgia chapter has more than 2,700 members and is headquartered in Atlanta. For more information about the association, visit www.naswga.org .