At the age of 18 months Tanjila Bolden was diagnosed with Sickle Cell Disease. It wasn’t until high school that Bolden finally realized how to advocate for herself on her illness, as well as advocating for others in her school. She says she was a social worker before she even knew it was a profession. She valued being a support system and helping friends through hard times, Bolden said. Throughout high school, Bolden struggled with her disease. The day of her finals she experienced a Sickle Cell crisis that put her in the hospital. Unable to take her finals that day, she made them up at a later time and was able to attend her graduation ceremony with the rest of her class.

Her challenges continued as she pursued a college degree. She eventually found her way to Florissant Valley Community College and then University of Missouri-St. Louis where she earned her B.S.W. in 2005. She wanted a job right away, and had no interest in getting a Master’s Degree, Bolden said. After having major surgery and being out of work for two years, Bolden decided to go back for her Master’s Degree in 2008. UMSL was able to work with her so she could get an education that would allow her to work with others who have Sickle Cell. The program taught her how to start an organization, as well as showed her what a governing board should look like. Her MSW and the Nonprofit Management & Leadership Graduate Certificate are what made her successful, Bolden said.

Today, Bolden puts her education to use working as the Sickle Cell Program Coordinator for the Youth & Family Center. In addition, she sits on many boards including the Charles Drew Board, Washington University Advisory Board for Sickle Cell, and the Sickle Cell Standing Board for the State of Missouri. She attributes her ability to sit on a board and participate effectively to her NPML classes. Bolden says the “The certificate program gives in-depth coverage of the topics and were power-packed to give me the tools to be successful,” Bolden said. She recommends the program to the volunteers at the organization who take an interest in the field.

‑Lauren Smith