Community Service Award | Vicki Arnett
Vicki became involved in her community at an early age through youth organizations like Girl Scouts and the charitable activities of the First United Methodist Church. Being involved in the community provided Vicki with focus and purpose. She was especially impacted by her experience with the newly-formed Head Start program, which introduced her to issues of poverty and discrimination, problems Vicki would continue to engage with throughout her future career as a social worker.
She graduated from Kansas State University with a major in social work. Completing her degree in social work underscored her desire to effect change at both the person level, as well as the community and organizational level. As a first-generation college student she knew first-hand the grit required to complete a college degree without much support. Vicki placed an emphasis on mentoring social work students, serving as a field instructor, field liaison, and adjunct instructor of social work.
As a practicing social worker, Vicki was involved in the women’s movement and civic engagement as a founding member of the Feminist Forum: Women for Human Rights. She helped lead a campaign to educate the community about child abuse and neglect. Vicki continued her community involvement through volunteer work in financial and reading literacy programs, women’s social justice, poverty programs, and other political and social action programs. She served on a variety of boards including child care, professional boards and the League of Women Voters. As President of the League of Women Voters Topeka Shawnee County, Vicki co-led the league’s commemorations of the centennial of the 19th amendment granting voting rights to women.
Community service has been at the foundation of both her personal and professional life for more than 40 years, and she will continue to fight for civil rights and social justice in Topeka.
Q&A with TK Business
TK: Who has had a tremendous impact on you? How did this person impact your life?
VICKI: There have been many people who have had an impact on me. I have had wonderful, caring mentors as a social worker. I have been lucky to have strong women who supported my efforts and community involvement. So, it’s difficult to choose just one person, but I remember being deeply impacted by my brief meeting with Congresswoman Bella Abzug in 1974 at the annual convention of the National Women’s Political Caucus in Wichita, KS. Her nickname was “Battling Bella,” a moniker she earned for her years as a leader in the Women’s Movement.
TK: What inspires you?
VICKI: I take inspiration from the everyday strengths of those I encounter. For example, in our busy society, making eye contact, smiling and greeting others inspires me and I hope sets a civil tone in our relationships.
TK: What drives your commitment to community service?
VICKI: I’m passionate about social justice and equality. Having spent 45 years as a social worker, I’ve seen what systemic racism, sexism, and poverty does to our society and I’m determined to do what I can to help, both in my professional life and my personal time.
TK: What advice do you have for others?
VICKI: Small things matter and big things are possible. Whatever your background, skills, experience or availability, there are ways to get involved in your community and make a difference. Everyone has a valuable contribution to make, and when we work together the possibilities abound.
TK: If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?
VICKI: I recently returned from a trip to Seneca Falls, NY, where the first women’s rights declaration was signed in 1848. I learned more about Susan B. Anthony,a social reformer, abolitionist, and leader of the women’s suffrage movement. Her views were radical for the time, and ahead of her time in many ways. I’d like to know where her sense of moral fortitude came from.