Empowering Marginalized Youth and Reigniting Their Enthusiasm for Life-Long Learning

04/19/2024 Alumni Spotlight

Izjia Jefferson worked two jobs and contributed to the Center for Innovation, the math-science magnet school for fifth graders, while she attended McMurry. She found working with the “McMagnet” students quite enjoyable and considered it a valuable program for the fifth graders and McMurry students alike. Through her involvement, she facilitated opportunities for the McMagnet students to engage in a high-level learning environment, which subsequently influenced her career path to work with youth.  

Inspired by her experience working with the McMagnets, Dr. Jerry Hollingsworth helped engage Jefferson in work with youth from lower socioeconomic backgrounds through an internship with the Social Work Department (SWD) of Taylor County. This experience ignited a broader passion within her, extending beyond merely influencing the younger generation to include a desire to shield them from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. With a desire to make a difference in the social sector, she believes their voices must be heard.   

Through Jefferson’s internship with the SWD, she was able to attain a full-time position with the Texas Family Institute (TFI) as a performance improvement specialist (PIS) where she focuses on supporting youth who were victims of abuse and neglect and aims to implement safety measures to keep families intact. Her role involves ensuring families receive the necessary support to remain together.  

“While working as a social worker, I realized that I wanted to contribute to enhancing the foster care system. This realization prompted me to join TFI, where I now work towards this goal.” 

After four years as a PIS, she was promoted to outcomes manager, where she oversees compliance regulations and monitors the foster care system to safeguard children’s well-being. Through her work, she ensures children’s safety and the existence of suitable group homes.  

While Jefferson initially envisioned herself continuing to work within the foster care system long-term, she has felt an emotional toll that has affected her mental health due to her genuine care for the people involved. In the next five years, she expects to find another way to impact youth.

Jefferson pursued a Master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs at Hardin Simmons University and engaged in academic advising. As a first-generation student, she was driven by the desire to assist students in navigating the path to higher education. Being of biracial heritage, Jefferson seeks to impact youth, specifically aiding first-generation and minority students in high school, showing their potential, and guiding them toward achieving their aspirations through education.  

Jefferson explains that many students view college merely as an option rather than recognizing its potential for achievement. She is actively working to change this perception by emphasizing the importance of education and encouraging youth to pursue it actively. Her goal is to ensure that children are not only educated but also engaged in the learning process. Ultimately, she seeks to reignite the enthusiasm for education and its transformative power in young minds.  

An advocate for exploring various career options, Jefferson believes that internships are invaluable opportunities that students should be seeking out while in school. They provide you with a great network of people who can help them grow both professionally and personally. She explains that if she hadn’t had her internship, her boss at the TSI wouldn’t have hired her at 22 years old.   

For alumni or students interested in gaining experience in the child welfare field, Jefferson advises getting involved with various organizations such as CPS, the Noah Project, or similar organizations.   

“Engage actively in your community to understand the workings of different programs and determine where you envision yourself contributing,” Jefferson advises. “By immersing yourself in these experiences and demonstrating genuine care for the children, individuals with pure intentions can drive meaningful change.” 


Do you or an alum you know have a great post-McMurry story? We’d love to feature YOU! Contact the Alumni Office at alumni@mcm.edu to schedule an interview.