Graduate Exemplifies the 'Human' in Human Services

Shandra Aiken Martin was the kind of school bus driver most parents would want their children to ride with. If they sneezed, she said “bless you” and offered a tissue. If they hung their head, she asked what was wrong and took the time to really listen. That kind and intuitive nature suited her well for work in the human services profession, so she took the plunge.

Martin graduated from Piedmont Technical College (PTC) with an associate in applied science, human services major, last spring. Because she wanted to help other students comfortably transition into college life, she served as a Presidential Ambassador at PTC, representing the college at events and inspirational speaking opportunities. She now shares her talents and natural empathy with families navigating challenges in their immediate circumstances at the Laurens County Department of Social Services (DSS), where she works as a foster care case manager assistant.

“I love the job because I have always loved working with children,” Martin said. “I was a school bus driver for about seven years.” She is dismayed, however, by the reasons many children end up in foster care. Very soon after she started with DSS, the 45-year-old mother of two came across a case file that she found deeply disturbing.

The first page of the extremely thick file was a forensic exam record related to a child abuse case.

“I had to take a moment,” she recalled. “You hear about stuff like that, but when you see it for yourself for the very first time, it hits you hard. You have to toughen up. This is part of the job.”

Martin soldiered on, focusing on making sure that any children in DSS care were made as comfortable as possible. Some become withdrawn due to trauma in their lives. “I could tell when something was wrong,” she said. “I learned that from being a school bus driver. I do my best to offer them the support they need.”

In her position, Martin is responsible for a variety of practical tasks, from requesting medical or school records to obtaining birth certificates for children coming into DSS custody. Sometimes she is called upon to transport children to supervised visits.

Aside from her experience as a school bus driver, Martin is quick to point out that her education at PTC was instrumental in preparing her for every aspect of her job, both the joys and the difficulties.

“Piedmont Tech definitely prepared me for this position,” she said. “My instructors each were like a mentor, a parent and an instructor all wrapped into one. … During my time at PTC, I was working two jobs and being a full-time mother. There were times I thought I had too much going on, but I received so much support at Piedmont Tech that I was able to succeed.”

While working at DSS, Martin enrolled at Limestone University, where she is working on a bachelor’s degree.

“I hope to be a social worker one day,” she said. “I’m not sure if I will stay in the DSS agency. I do miss the school system.” Wherever she ultimately ends up, Martin is sure to exemplify the “human” in human services.

To learn more about PTC’s Human Services Program, visit