Starr (Sears) Laytart ’13 did not come directly to the University of Findlay after high school like many. In fact, she spent two years at Owens Community College earning an associate’s degree in liberal studies before coming to the University. When she came to Findlay to study social work, attending school was not her only focus as she had two children, a job and a fiancé.
The University’s location close to her home and its small classes sizes were desirable traits for Laytart, and she feels her choice to join the Social Work Program was the best decision. Her first connection to UF came when she met Robin Walters-Powell, Ed.D., M.S.W., LISW-S, assistant professor and chair of the social work program while at Owens Community College. Walters-Powell had taught at the college as an associate adjunct professor for many years. She was a huge contributing factor for Laytart in choosing Findlay.
“She was more than an instructor,” Laytart said, “she was encouraging, motivating and inspirational.”
When first coming to Findlay, Laytart was delighted to find individuals of many ages, socioeconomic statuses and areas of the world. She felt comfortable being surrounded by such a diverse school environment where she could engage on a personal level.
In addition to the engagement she had with her fellow classmates, Laytart found she was able to connect with her college professors in a way that prepared her for success. “Having professors that were knowledgeable, personable and that complemented each other’s teaching styles made my college career a success,” she said. “The high level of education I received was beyond my expectations.”
Taking advantage of the wide variety of classes offered by the University, Laytart took American Sign Language (ASL) classes to brush up on her skills. She always had a passion for ASL and has found opportunities to use it in her daily work life.
“I feel very fulfilled and accomplished when I am able to assist a client in the field who is deaf and utilize ASL as their primary means of communication,” Laytart explained.
Laytart found the social work program to be a challenging experience, especially for being a “non-traditional student.” Those challenges she experienced and overcame proved to her that she could achieve any goal she sought to accomplish.
Through the University, Laytart participated in two internship programs, giving her the opportunity to start building a rapport with the social workers and agencies she would work in after graduation. It allowed her to step into the working world of social work and helped make the transition after graduation easier. “Completing two internships gave me the confidence I needed to face the field of social work,” she said.
During her senior year, Laytart was placed at Blanchard Valley Residential Center to complete her final placement requirements. She gained experience working with individuals with developmental differences in the residential, school and community employment areas. Upon graduation, Laytart was offered a position as a job coach with Project Search located on the University of Findlay campus. The program offers individuals with developmental differences the opportunity to gain hands-on working experience in the mailroom, housekeeping and food preparation areas on campus. During that point in her life, she was willing to work in any field of social work to “get her feet wet.”
Now, Laytart works at Findlay Hope House for the Homeless as the ABLE housing program case manager. She manages a permanent supportive housing grant along with case managing individuals and families who have a person with a disability in the household. What she likes most about her job is getting to work with people from all walks of life. “I work with clients, other professionals, landlords and family members of clients,” she said, “I appreciate and learn from each group.”
Through experiential learning at the University of Findlay, Laytart was able to find her place in the industry. “The social work field is so diverse that almost anyone can find their niche,” she said.