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Alumni Profile: Dr. Barbara Milton

Throughout her career, Dr. Barbara Milton, a 2001 Graduate School of Social work graduate, has passionately worked towards “giving life and breath” to the social work profession. Dr. Milton serves as the director of clinical services at the Family Service Center of the Urban League of Hudson County, an adjunct professor at Turro College’s Graduate School of Social Work, a guest lecturer at Rutgers University, a columnist for the Jersey Journal, and as co-chair of the Hudson County, New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Social Work (NASW-NJ). She was also recently named the New Jersey Social Worker of the Year by the NASW-NJ. In filling all of these diverse roles, Dr. Milton aims to create a framework of resilience and empowerment for underprivileged groups.

One of her major projects toward this goal is her bi-weekly column in the Jersey Journal entitled, “Our Pride and Joy,” where she shares the stories and accomplishments of young people. Though Dr. Milton’s background is not in journalism, she feels that being a social worker allows for a very different perspective on writing stories. She was inspired to take on this project when she began to recognize what she calls the “vilification of young black males” in the media. She wrote various pieces about her concern over the unbalanced narrative for young urban males, and in 2010 was offered a column in order to shed light on positive examples of young people in Hudson County.

“If there is a person of color on the front page that is captured doing something that is not good, in the middle of that paper, we have an example of a person who can counter, or balance that negativity,” Dr. Milton says. The reactions to her column have been very positive, and her writing works to offset the negative narrative that has developed about urban youth. It exposes the resilience of these groups, and celebrates their achievements. “When the teenagers see their story in the Jersey Journal, they tell me that it is the best day of their lives,” she said.

In addition to her column, she is the executive producer and host of "Focus on Teens," a Comcast television show that also spotlights successful young people in Hudson County. In each episode, one teen’s narrative is featured on camera, with professionals in the social work field woven into each story to create a cohesive finished product and an elevated conversation about important topics. “I am stretching myself and it’s exhilarating,” she said. “I learned video editing and receiving video tutoring from Comcast Public Access, and it has been a thrill.”

Dr. Milton started on the social work track after a turbulent freshmen year of college where she experienced extreme racism. “I have always been calibrated with sensitivity for social issues,” she said. After meeting faculty of the social work department at Seton Hill University, she was inspired to transition from a Pre-Med major to a degree in Social Welfare. She said the goals of social work were congruent with what she had been feeling, and helped to challenge the anger she felt about the injustice she had seen and felt her entire life. After Seton Hill, Dr. Milton went on to receive her masters in Social Work from Rutgers. She said this experience, “gave more than a foundation of knowledge, but also inspired me to continue my education.” She went on to receive her doctorate in Social Welfare and Social Science Research at the City University of New York.

Dr. Milton is also very proud of her volunteer work with the NASW, and says that her experiences with social work are incredibly rewarding and she feels like “the luckiest person in the world,” because of the lives she has a chance to touch. “I want to promote a framework of resilience for people, and lift up communities using all my experience and education.”

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