Student Highlight: Kaylyn Thigpen, a journey of personal and public advocacy
Undergraduate student Kaylyn Thigpen has always been a self-advocate. Faced with several personal health issues, open conversations about them became a necessary reality. Since November 2017, Kaylyn approached each of her professors on the first day of class to inform them of her brain aneurysm diagnosis and how to respond in an emergency situation. “This led to a lot more conversations with my professors, particularly with Carol Edwards,” she explained. “We talked about health insurance and how hard it is to get quality care.”
Over a year and a half ago, faced with the death of her cousin from cystic fibrosis and her experiences with her chronic medical issues, Kaylyn found a passion for public advocacy as a social work major. “I think I got into the major like most people,” Kaylyn reflected. “I saw an injustice, and I wanted to actively do something about it.”
Her time in the BSW Program at the FSU College of Social Work has also emboldened Kaylyn to share her medical journey on a more public level to reduce stigma. Recently she shared her struggles with endometriosis, a medical issue experienced by an estimated 1 in 10 women during their reproductive years. Sharing her story with the UF Health Shands Hospital became an important experience for Kaylyn once she realized how many other women shared her experiences. “While at the College, I met many people who dealt on a daily basis with endometriosis or other debilitating chronic diseases,” she said.
She credits her professors and fellow social work students at the College of Social Work for making a huge difference in her undergraduate experience, noting their diverse backgrounds and experience as vital for informing her classroom experience. “I also liked that professors encouraged us to get involved in our community and to make a difference,” she expounded. Her greatest takeaway and advice for other students entering the social work profession would be to take their role as advocates seriously by speaking up and speaking out. “If you’re dealing with some kind of issue in your life, speak up. You never know who is going through the same thing and hitting the same brick wall. If you see injustice, do something. Don’t stand by and become passive,” Kaylyn stressed.
Kaylyn’s passion for advocacy has also affected her career focus, with her end goal being to work with children with chronic and terminal illnesses and their families in a healthcare setting. After graduating this summer, she will start her Master’s degree in social work at FSU with the hopes of transitioning into a position in public service with the Florida Department of Children and Families.