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A chance conversation with a customer who was a rehabilitation counselor while Hailey Morris worked at a local coffee shop in South Carolina spurred her desire to pursue the profession and to consider graduate school. Today, Morris is a first-year student in the Division of Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling who hopes to become a licensed professional counselor.

Hailey Morris
Hailey Morris

Morris’s passion for service began as a child, and that continued at the University of South Carolina. As a college student, Morris volunteered in New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. That experience triggered a desire to engage in additional service. Morris left USC and worked in Colorado for two years as an AmeriCorps volunteer.

“I really hadn’t done intense service like that before,” Morris said. “I went, and it really just changed my world.”

Following her experience in AmeriCorps, Morris returned to USC, where she majored in public health and began work at the coffee shop. Meeting a rehabilitation counselor and learning more about the profession drew her to the field. Through the chance encounter, Morris was able to learn more and secure an internship at the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department.

“That’s how we make a better society, a better country, and a better community,” Morris said.

Morris, the daughter of two veterans who served in Iraq and a first-generation college student, said she has a variety of interests, ranging from working with veteran populations, to those experiencing homelessness, to family and young girls.

“I’m such a mixed bag,” Morris said. “What really motivates me in school are my core values and helping make the world a better place.”

Morris’s volunteerism—more than 4,000 hours—earned her recognition from President Barack Obama as a President’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner in 2016. She has also received three Congressional Awards.

At the UNC School of Medicine Department of Allied Health Sciences, Morris benefits from the UNC Hospitals Volunteer Association’s Community Service Fellowship, which recognizes students like her with scholarship funding.

“It helps me know that I can get through school,” Morris said. “It helps with the financial aspect of school that can be such a burden when going for a master’s degree out of state.”

The Division of Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling is ranked #9 in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report.