A Dedicated School Social Worker

Alumna Jackie Brown-Pinkney Receives Prestigious Recognition

Jackie Pinkney-Brown sits in her office

It’s little wonder that Jackie Brown-Pinkney (‘93,’04,’06,’15) is celebrating a remarkable year. Over three decades, she has devoted her professional life to assisting students in Effingham County, Georgia, as a school social worker within the public school system. Her dedication to children has earned her national recognition from the School Social Work Association of America. The organization honored her with the prestigious title of 2023 School Social Worker of the Year. 

Reflecting on the honor, Brown-Pinkney admitted, “I had no idea I would be chosen. I was shocked. I am my own worst critic and couldn’t help but think, ‘Little me, wow.’”

In her role as a social worker, Brown-Pinkney is an advocate for children and families confronting various challenges. She connects them with community resources, counseling, and social, emotional, or mental health services. 

“Social work is a calling, and it has been some of the hardest but most rewarding work that I have done in my life,” she said. “I work every day to remove barriers in the lives of children and families, which allows me to serve and share my gifts with the world.”

Brown-Pinkney is an accomplished alumna of Georgia Southern University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology with an emphasis in social work, a master’s and a specialist in educational leadership, and a doctorate in education administration. Her career began with the Effingham County Board of Education, where she served as a resource coordinator for the Georgia lottery-funded Pre-K program before becoming the system’s first and only school social worker, responsible for creating a program from scratch. The number of school social workers has increased over the years as have the challenges facing students and their families. Brown-Pinkney helps her students address issues such as the loss of loved ones, depression, social anxiety, bullying, homelessness, and food insecurity.

“The importance of mental health has been highlighted more because of the impact of COVID,” Brown-Pinkney acknowledged. “Students cannot effectively learn while going through all these extenuating circumstances. If they are worried about their next meal or where their family will lay their head at night, focusing on math and other academics becomes almost impossible. Therefore, school social workers remove or break down these barriers and get families plugged into resources so students can come to school happy, fed, and ready to learn.”

Besides her regular duties, Brown-Pinkney is president of the School Social Workers Association of Georgia and actively participates on civic boards at the community and state levels. Most notable is her appointment to the Georgia Composite Board of Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage and Family Therapists by former Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and again by Gov. Brian Kemp. Recently, she completed the process to become a National Certified School Social Worker. She acknowledged she gained the confidence to pursue leadership positions as a Georgia Southern student when she was the game room manager in the Russell Student Union.

“Attending Georgia Southern University was one of the best experiences of my life,” she fondly recalled. “When I think of Georgia Southern, I have nothing but gratitude and great memories. It gave me the opportunity to leave my small town and live on my own. I met some wonderful people there. Our close-knit crew did everything together, and we supported and protected each other. I love Georgia Southern.”

Despite dedicating 30 years to social work, Brown-Pinkney doesn’t plan to slow down or retire just yet.

“I don’t know what I would do with myself if I retired now,” she said. Her dream is to establish her own counseling practice and continue making a positive impact on the lives of others. 

— Sandra Bennett

Photo by Jonathan Chick