When Melody Bolin, LSW, works with her clients, she knows how hard change can be. The Newark native grew up on the south side and attended Newark High School. At the end of high school, Bolin experienced a lot of personal challenges. It took some time, but she was able to overcome her challenges. It was a pivotal moment for Bolin when she decided she wanted to redefine her life and the lives of others.
“I had a lot of challenges that began towards the end of high school, and when I turned my life around, I decided I wanted to help people who have struggled. I wanted to inspire and show others that people can change,” Bolin said.
A New Beginning at COTC
Bolin received her GED in 2009, and her desire to inspire others and create a new path for herself ultimately led her to Central Ohio Technical College (COTC). Several of her friends attended COTC’s well-respected nursing program, and they put the college on her radar.
The college’s reputation, convenient location and flexible courses made COTC a natural choice for Bolin, a mother of four. “It’s very flexible. There are morning, afternoon and evening classes. COTC would work for someone straight out of high school or a mother with four kids,” Bolin said.
Bolin enrolled in COTC’s human services program and immediately connected with the supportive faculty and community-like atmosphere.
“Instructors focused on the students as individuals. I could tell that every single one of the staff members there really wanted me to succeed,” Bolin said. “The Gateway was amazing. When I was confused about registering for courses, they would always help me.”
As much as the faculty impressed Bolin, they were also impressed with her. Associate Professor and Practicum Coordinator Jennifer Arny, LISW-S, HS-BCP, recalls, “Melody came into our program with a passion for helping others and was committed to learning the skills to give back to her community. She was an enthusiastic learner. Her positive attitude and drive were inspiring, and she was a leader among her classmates.”
Bolin completed a practicum required for the program and licensure as a social work assistant in Ohio. Practicums are field experiences that allow students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to a real-world environment and give students practical skills to prepare them for employment. Sometimes practicums even provide students with long-term career insights and help them connect with a specialty area. Bolin’s practicum placement at The Main Place — a consumer-operated mental health recovery center that promotes recovery through peer support, socialization, education, and training — connected her with a specialty in mental health.
Recalling the experience, Bolin said, “I didn’t really want to work in this area, but during my placement, I discovered I had a passion for mental health.”
After completing the program, Bolin accepted a job at The Main Place. With her associate degree, she worked as a mental health case manager under a licensed social worker. Bolin’s uncovered passion for mental health inspired her to set her sights on a new goal — becoming a licensed independent social worker and working as a mental health therapist.
In pursuit of her new goal, Bolin completed a bachelor’s degree at The Ohio State University and is working on her master’s degree at Chamberlain University.
“COTC was a good stepping stone for me when I went on to my bachelor’s degree,” she said, adding that COTC was affordable, and she could easily transfer credit to other universities.
In November of 2022, Bolin passed her licensed social worker exam for the State of Ohio and became one step closer to becoming a licensed independent social worker and mental health counselor in Ohio. More importantly, Bolin has inspired hope in her family, friends, clients and community by showing that change is possible.
“All her hard work has certainly paid off. She is a tremendous asset to the betterment of our community,” said Arny, LISW-S, HS-BCP.
Opportunities in Human Services and Social Work
The human services field holds many opportunities for students at the associate degree level.
- Career paths include social work assistant, chemical dependency counselor assistant, case manager, intake coordinator, group leader and more.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that social and human service assistant employment will grow 12% from 2021 to 2031.
- The average mean salary in Ohio for social work assistants is between $36,720 to $40,340. Students who continue their education and earn a master’s degree and licensure in Ohio can expect an annual mean salary from $45,010 to $58,900.
For people like Melody, though, the most rewarding aspect of working in the social work field is making a difference in the lives of others.
Human Services Virtual Visit at COTC
Are you interested in learning more about the human services program at COTC? Attend a virtual information session on Tuesday, Feb. 28, from 1–2 p.m., where faculty and staff will share information about certificates and degree options at COTC and help you determine what path would work best for your goals. Register at go.cotc.edu/humanservicesinfosession.
COTC is a fully accredited, public college dedicated to providing high-quality, accessible programs of technical education in response to current and emerging employment needs. COTC is the only technical college in Ohio operating four full-service campus locations: Newark, Coshocton, Knox and Pataskala.