Donnise Powell: Doing social work before she even knew what it was

Professional Photo of Donnise Powell taken by Marcus L. Jackson

SAN JOSE, CALIF. – Donnise Powell, a mental health and wellness specialist at Silver Creek High School, speaks of her journey into the career she’s in today and the hardships she faced to get to where she is now.

Powell was born in Fremont, California, and grew up in Berkeley. From there, she would move to Hayward then ‘The City’, also known as San Francisco. Due to the move, she grew a large social network from moving and bouncing around the city and creating friendships all over the bay. Powell grew up in a family that was active in her community and focused on helping families when they needed it, and despite her family looking perfect on the outside, they had their internal struggles. She describes, “I was doing social work before even knowing what social work was.”

Growing up, Donnise wanted to be a Journalist. She read a ton of magazines like Jet and Ebony which showed black women in beautiful ways so she wanted to write to inspire and uplift black women. Powell also learned that she loved working with young kids but also realized she couldn’t see herself doing it all day. Eventually, along the way she found out the work she’d been doing her whole life was social work.

Powell describes her work as a way for her to show God’s love to people by being a reflection of him. She states, “No matter what you been through, no matter where you from, what you look like, I’m gonna love on you. You’re gonna feel loved when I talk to you and when you interact with me.” For the entirety of her life, she would always ask what people needed. If she couldn’t do it for them, she  was going to help them find it and figure it out together. “Social work is about loving on people and being there for people in the most genuine way.” says Powell. 

One way Powell would describe her life is very, very interesting. There were many positive experiences, but Powell also had a history of struggles and trauma. However, she doesn’t believe that she would be the person she is today without the good and bad experiences. Powell is a single parent. She expresses that having a child changed her entire world but also helped her reach higher levels of her own potential. “As a single parent, I had to push myself in ways I never imagined I could.”  

Something that has always influenced Powell in her work is her faith and spirituality. She believes the person she is on earth will have an impact on where her spirit and soul will go. Powell’s lifelong goal is to breathe a sigh of relief knowing that she achieved what God created her to do on Earth, “I want to feel fulfilled and I want to be happy looking back at life.”

A memory that always comes to Donnise’s mind that will always motivate her to work in social work is students coming back to her. “They tell me how I impacted their lives in powerful ways or got something from me they always needed and never got anywhere else.” Powell makes an emphasis on how our emotions always need to be dealt with in a healthy way,  if we don’t, it’ll turn you into a monster. 

“I’ve been through a lot, I’ve seen a lot.” 

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