Founder and Executive Director

Melrita Johnson.jpg

Melrita M. Johnson, LCSW

Melrita Johnson is a native of Forrest City, AR. Melrita attended Forrest City High School. Melrita graduated from FCHS in 1995 and enrolled in college at THE Fort Valley State University in Fort Valley, GA. While matriculating, Melrita was a member of the World Renown Blue Machine Marching Band and developed a love for Social Work. Transferring back to her home state of Arkansas, Melrita enrolled in East Arkansas Community College and transferred to Arkansas State University where she graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Social Work.

During her time at “A-State”, she was awarded a Title IV-E Grant Stipend through the Partnership between ASU and the Department of Human Services-Division of Children and Family Services. Melrita moved to Pine Bluff, Jefferson County where she began her career working with children at DHS-DCFS as a Family Service Worker. Melrita worked several counties during her tour with DCFS such as Jefferson, Lonoke, Prairie, and St. Francis even going on to be the County Supervisor in Craighead County. Melrita worked briefly with the Arkansas Department of Community Corrections where she learned that she believed more in rehabilitation and being given opportunities rather than being punitive. Melrita began working with Counseling Services of Eastern Arkansas as a Care Coordinator with the new grant received by the state System of Care initiative, ACTION for Kids (Arkansans Collaborating Together to Improve Our Network for Kids). Here she discovered her love for the wraparound model where you bring every spectrum of a child's life to the table, including formal and informal supports so that everyone understands the goals and objectives, are all on one page, all walk away with a job to improve the child's life, including the child, and everyone holds everyone accountable.

While employed with CSEA, Melrita was afforded the opportunity to receive state of the art training through extensive travel throughout the US. Training that she still uses today in her practice with clients and their families. Melrita knew that she needed a higher level of training to continue her work so she enrolled into the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and graduated with her Master in Social Work in 2010. Melrita is currently a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has worked in several capacities such as Mental Health Therapist, Therapeutic Foster Care Therapist, and Geri Psych Therapist, completed Home Studies for the state of Arkansas, Medical Social Worker at Jefferson Regional Medical Center, Renal Social Worker with US Renal Care and Hospice Angels in Pine Bluff, AR.

Melrita is the Owner/Chief Executive Officer of The Chosen One Professional Services, LLC. (TCOPS)which provides Private Mental Health Services, Public Speaking, Professional In-Services, Professional Development Trainings, Workshops, Continuing Education, Grant Writing and Workshops, 501c3 Procurement and Management and Workshops, Services and Trainings, Group Community Supportive Services, Life Coaching and more. As the President and Founder of REFORM, Inc., a non-profit organization that works with youth 5-29 to teach them independent living skills and how to be leaders in the community, Melrita has discovered learning, teaching, servitude and giving back to the community has inspired her in her personal life and she offers it to her community.

Through REFORM, Inc., Melrita has been afforded the ability to touch the lives of over 2000 youth across the State of Arkansas through various activities such as the Youth Teen and Young Adult Empowerment Expo, which has been held in Forrest City and Pine Bluff, AR, the Back to School Extravaganza, and now has been afforded the ability to touch the lives of youth and their parents through the REFORM, Inc. presents Sister Friend Empowerment Expo. REFORM, Inc. recently partnered with the national youth serving organization Youth Move National and under the leadership of Melrita, is now the only State Chapter for the state of Arkansas by way of Arkansas BLAZE Academy Youth Move.

Melrita is currently serving as Director of Mental Health Services at Southeast Arkansas College, Advisory Board member for the School of Social Work at her alma mater, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and elected as the Southeast Branch Representative to the Board of Directors of the Arkansas National Association of Social Workers. Melrita joined the fabulous Sisterhood of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. by being initiated through Xi Sigma Zeta Chapter Fall 2002. Since being a member, she has held various elected local positions, elected and appointed State positions as well as appointed Regional positions including appointment as the South Central Region Representative to the International Mental Health Team and Zetas Helping Other People Excel (Z-HOPE) Regional Coordinator. Melrita is proud to become a 2020 Leadership Pine Bluff graduate August 27, 2020. Melrita made history on March 3, 2020 by becoming the Organizer and Founder of the first ever Social Work Sorority, Alpha Chi Epsilon Sigma Social Work Sorority, Inc. Melrita is currently pursing her Doctorate of Social Work degree from Capella University. Her intended graduation date is June 14, 2024. 

Melrita is a member of Second Baptist Church in Little Rock, AR.  She is the mother of 4 children who she loves dearly- Jalen, Caitlyn, Samuel, and Abigail. Melrita is an avid activist for change in the community and believes “Dreams Do Come True with proper Support, Planning and Action”. Melrita also knows that nothing is possible without God at the forefront of her life. She lives her life by the motto “With God, ALL things are possible but without Him, faith and action, nothing is”.

Melrita's Teaching Philosophy

 I believe in meeting learners where they are to create an atmosphere of learning while also exposing them to new learning styles that may give them even more opportunities to gather as much knowledge as possible. Evolution is necessary. If the same person you are today is the same person you were 10 years ago and 10 years from now, engage in more avenues to have experienced, gain knowledge, be in more rooms, place yourself around those who are smarter than you, and challenge yourself to step outside the box to do something that scares you.

 Once I see the “light bulb” go off, I know the intended goal to motivate or educate has been met.

Approach to sharing my knowledge and expertise with diverse populations

I would advise any learner whom I meet, to begin with self. Figure out their purpose, eliminate any barriers, identify goals, start with what they can control, and “fix, and take it one day at a time. Everyone’s experiences are from their lens, their perspective, their environment, their understanding, from what they believe, however, to be open to the possibility that what they know may not be as accurate as what they believe. Once they are open to the possibility, their world may change. If what they believe is found to be what they thought, back it up with a sound theory and apply it to all they do, in truth and with integrity. Every moment is a teachable moment.

Guiding Principles

 National Association of Social Work Code of Ethics

 Social Workers should be aware and sensitive to culture and its function in society. Strengths are innate to all. Social workers should prepare themselves to be as knowledgeable as possible regarding differences amongst people to ensure they are sensitive to clients’ needs.

 Social Workers should only operate within their area of expertise, especially if they are in the role of an educator. When evaluating the competency of a learner, it should be done in a fair, consistent, respectful, yet individualized way.

 Social Workers should consistently operate to the highest level of integrity, standards, knowledge, skills, values, and ethics.

 (NASW, 2021)

 National Association of Social Work Standards for Technology

 Technology should be utilized to assist clients to gain the most access to services. IT should be done safely by assessing risk, ensure confidentiality, and to be able to maintain boundaries.

(NASW et al., 2017)

NASW Code of Ethics influence on my Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement

Social Work follows under the guide of the National Association of Social Work Code of Ethics which outlines ethical values, principles, and standards to address practice inclusive of cultural competence. Our Code tells us that we are to follow this set of standards as a guide to our practice however it does not proclaim to be all-inclusive which then leaves room for interpretation and views that may be counterproductive of seeking change and equity (NASW, 2021).

One ethical principle would be that social workers have an obligation to change the current climate-related to changing society for the better. Social workers are to work to instill opportunities for social change for those marginalized members of society to reduce racism, sexism, discrimination, in any form that is detrimental to the well-being of the individual and to society. Other key principles that build on this premise would be valuing the importance of human relationships and the integrity and worth of a person. By being culturally aware of diversity, social workers are to gain knowledge about diverse cultures through a strength-based perspective to properly care for and treat the individual with respect to their difference (NASW, 2021).

Everyone’s experiences begin from the context of what they learned from their immediate environment and transcribed from their lens, their perspective, their understanding, trainings, exposures, values, and beliefs, however, to be open to the possibility that what they have learned may not be as accurate as what they once believed. Social workers inclusiveness of this theory when tackling even how they address diversity and inclusion to explain their stance from an educator perspective impacts the openness of the student and creates a non-threatening atmosphere that encourages discussion and use of their voice by not diminishing or shaming their experiences however creating it as a “teachable moment”. Once students, and in some cases educators, are open to the possibility of difference, their world may change. When their world changes, it changes others’ worlds, in truth respect, and with integrity. Respecting a person’s lived experiences is vital to respect and passing along the education to others (Hakkola, 2019).

Utilizing mentors, supports, and services by minority professional organizations, such as Alpha Chi Epsilon Sigma Social Work Sorority, Inc. can be utilized as tools for promoting training and recruitment of minority professionals. Use of formal workshops and interventions can also be sought by such agencies to be a consultant or offer services to promote a culture shift on campuses that historically have not fostered sustainable attempts at DEI through recruitment of students and faculty that represent the student population (Marchiondo et al., 2021).

As college attendees become more diverse than what has been seen in previous generations, being intentional about creating opportunities to embrace diversity will be seen through representation and create cultural sensitivity (Venegas et al., 2021). The perspective can transition from continual ideals of segregation, privilege, racism, pride, suppression, and oppression to more marketable attributes for students especially those across the US who can then utilize support systems, create leaders with resources and academic successes as the greatest recruitment tool for any college (Hoffman & Mitchell, 2016). It shifts the beliefs of identified values and beliefs that are counterproductive of culture to the creation of one that is inclusive and promotes healing. By changing the narrative, it increases the students’ self-esteem and worth, while increasing the colleges’ accountability and transparency.

 

Hakkola, L. (2019). Obstacles and pathways: A critical discourse analysis of diversity in college recruiting. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 12(4), 365–376. https://doi.org/10.1037/dhe0000111

Hoffman, G. D., & Mitchell, T. D. (2016). Making diversity “everyone’s business”: A discourse analysis of institutional responses to student activism for equity and inclusion. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 9(3), 277–289. https://doi.org/10.1037/dhe0000037

 

Marchiondo, L. A., Verney, S. P., & Venner, K. L. (2021). Academic leaders’ diversity attitudes: Their role in predicting faculty support for institutional diversity. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1037/dhe0000333

NASW, ASWB, CSWE, & CSWA. (2017). NASW , ASWB, CSWE, & CSWA standards for technology. National Association of Social Workers. https://www.socialworkers.org/includes/newIncludes/homepage/PRA-BRO-33617.TechStandards_FINAL_POSTING.pdf.

N.A.S.W. (2021). National Association of social Workers (NASW). NASW - National Associacion of Social Workers. https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English.

Venegas, E. M., Scott, L. M., LeCompte, K. N., Moody-Ramirez, M., & Zhu, Y. (2021). Engaging in “dangerous discussions”: Fostering cultural competence through the analysis of depictions of college life in popular films. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 14(1), 37–49. https://doi.org/10.1037/dhe0000152