Jason Byrne’s Journey of Education and Purpose

Jason Byrne’s Journey of Education and Purpose

Andrea Byerly
Monday, January 29, 2024 12:00 AM
All, Press Releases, Academics

CLEVELAND, TN - With a desire to learn how the brain works and why people are all different, Jason Byrnes, returned to college in his 30s and graduated with a degree in social work at Cleveland State Community College. Now, “I am working in my home community, using my education and position to give back,” said Byrnes.

The McMinn County High School graduate tried college after high school, but it didn’t work out. Byrnes worked at DENSO for six years then studied information technology at a college in Chattanooga. When the college closed abruptly, Byrnes worked in retail management.

In his 30s with two children, Byrnes’ wife encouraged him to return to school. “This time, I took it pretty serious,” he said. “I took advantage of my age which meant I learned how to ask questions.” With the support of Jana Pankey, Associate Professor of Social Work, he discovered funding and scholarships from local organizations and honor societies. After graduation, Byrnes earned a bachelor’s degree at Tennessee Wesleyan University then a master’s degree from Capella University. He will take his licensure exam for certification as a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) this month.

Byrnes works as a clinical supervisor for Health Connect America, a mental health agency in McMinn County. “Providing comprehensive care and family therapy, we work with our clients and their families to improve their overall well-being and quality of life,” he said. “We use training and therapy to help clients cope with stress, anxiety, anger, depression or other emotions and behaviors.”

Byrnes continues, “Social work is a heavy field. Some people start with the mindset that they are going to save lots of people and do great things. You will do wonderful and great things, but you may not always know that you are helping people, in the moment. However, you might help a teenager who is pregnant and doesn’t know why her family doesn’t support or love her. You may receive a message six months after discharge telling you that her baby is healthy and adorable, and she is starting college. It will be that one person in three or four years who says thank you. That’s gotta be your why.”

As the first person in his family to attend college, Byrnes said, “I want to show my children what is important. I firmly believe that education can take you in directions you want to go. I returned to college in my 30s with a plan and an idea of purpose. With a wonderful education, mentorships and other learning opportunities, I have established my purpose which all began at Cleveland State.”

"Jason is certainly one of the many social work student success stories at Cleveland State,” said Pankey. “He always strived for academic success while balancing work and family time as well. Jason was very active on campus and was a natural leader in the classroom; he would often involve his young family members in campus and community events teaching his children at a very young age how important an education is and how to give back to the community in service to helping others. I am proud of his academic and professional accomplishments and know that he will continue to be successful for many years to come.”

For more information about the social work program at Cleveland State, contact Jana Pankey at jpankey@clevelandstatecc.edu or (423) 473-2438.


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