Soldier’s path goes from dental health to mental health

The journey from being one of 13 siblings growing up in the Midwest to becoming one of only 20 in the nation selected annually to attend a prestigious Army social-work program has had more than a few twists and turns for Burgundy Scott. But she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I was a high-school athlete and received a college scholarship for track and field,” Scott explained. “Due to transferring between school districts, I unfortunately became ineligible to participate in the track season during my senior year and lost my scholarship. My mom didn’t have the means to put us all through college, so I had to find another way.”

She found that other way when a high school classmate invited her to a future-soldier event at a local Army recruiting station.

“My friend’s recruiter told me about the benefits of joining the Army Reserve ‑ the main one being the education benefits that would help me pay for college” she said. “I joined the Army Reserve as a dental specialist and enjoyed it so much, the Army sent me to secure an additional skill for preventive dentistry. Additionally, I obtained my associates degree in health science and started on my bachelors degree.”

After serving eight years in the Army Reserve, Scott decided to make the Army a full-time career. “Unfortunately, the option wasn’t available at the time for medical jobs as they are highly sought after, so I volunteered to be a recruiter in the Active Guard Reserve (AGR) program.”

After earning her bachelors in psychology, she learned about the Army Master of Social Work (MSW) Program that would not only pay for her to get her masters degree, but would make her an Army officer and allow her to serve her fellow soldiers and their families.

“The rewarding part about growing up with that many siblings was there was never a dull moment,” Scott noted. “We played, we fought, we laughed, we cried – but regardless, we always took care of each other. My whole life has been about taking care of people and watching my mom take care of people. I always knew as an adult, whatever career I chose, it would be about the welfare of others.”

What led her to go from working in dental health to mental health? Scott credits the opportunities she had at each stop along the way with leading her to where she is today. “I strongly believe the Army was a driving force in helping me not only decide what my passion was, but I believe the experiences I had in the Army, fostered it as well. The hands-on training, the discipline, the leadership training, opportunities for growth, and the people and mentors I’ve met along the way were instrumental in molding me into who I am,” she added.

Burgundy Scott, posing with her 12 siblings, will be attending a prestigious social work program.
Staff Sgt. Burgundy Scott, (back row right) with her 12 siblings and mother.

“It’s not every day you get to recruit a recruiter, but that’s not what makes this story so special,” said Sgt. 1st Class Shetara Hailey, station commander of the Phoenix Army Medical Recruiting Station and the person helping Scott obtain her slot in the MSW Program. “She had a dream, and she worked hard and took advantage of every opportunity available to make that dream come true. We want only the best healthcare providers to serve our nation’s soldiers and that is what we are getting with Staff Sgt. Scott. She is a fantastic soldier, mother, sibling, and daughter and she is going to be an even better resource for our soldiers and their families.”

Although the first in her family to join the Army, she isn’t the only one now in uniform.

“I joined the Army in 2009 when my little brother was 10,” Scott explained. “I remember the first time he saw me in my uniform, his eyes lit up. He told me he wanted to be a soldier just like me when he graduated high school. He did just that. I was his recruiter and he now serves as an infantryman in the active duty Army.

So where does Scott’s life take her from here? She expects to leave her current assignment with the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion Sept. 15 to attend the Basic Officer Leadership Course and will start her social work journey in January.

“The MSW Program is a 14-month course through the University of Kentucky, followed by a 26-month Social Work Internship Program (SWIP),” she said. “I will commission as a second lieutenant and will complete my 14-month training at the AMEDD Center and School at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. At the completion of the internship, I will become licensed and serve as a social worker in the Army.”

Besides helping others, Scott said she has another motivation that has driven her.

“My greatest decision and accomplishment after joining the Army, was becoming a mother,” Scott stated. “In addition to being called a soldier, I am also called mom by a beautiful 5-year old daughter and 2-year old son. They are my motivation and drive, and I hope this new journey we are about to embark on makes them proud.”

Finally, she offers this advice to others, especially those who live near where she grew up in Elyria, Ohio. “I always thought your passion was something you just stumbled upon, something you had to find. But passion is not found, it’s ignited from the inside out through life experiences,” Scott explained. “From the time I was in your shoes asking the same questions, until now, I have done both internal and external work that has transformed me and ignited my passion. You can do the same. Go different places, do different things and meet different people and never stop improving yourself.”