Noelia Vicente had her first experience in social work during Hurricane Sandy.
Like thousands of other New Jersey residents who had to flee their homes, Vicente’s family members were evacuated to the local community center. It was there that she first saw social work in action.
“It was the first time I saw my parents and other members of the community disempowered, and it was truly disheartening,” Vicente recounted. “There was a volunteer MSW on site consoling individuals as well as making referrals and arrangements. I saw the connection and instantly knew that’s the field of study that I wanted to pursue.”
Carrying this memory with her, Vicente set out to start her academic path, with an MSW standing at the end of a long road. Vincente said she chose Rutgers after her sister’s successful completion of the undergraduate psychology program. Now, as an undergraduate student at Rutgers School of Social Work, Vicente says the BASW program changed her perspective on academia completely.
“The faculty and staff do everything in their power to encourage students and guide them towards positions of leadership,” Vincente said. Dr. DuWayne Battle, Associate Professor of Teaching, Director of the Baccalaureate Program and Coordinator of the Camden Program, has been one of her biggest advocates. He has pushed her to pursue goals since she started the program.
Career-wise, Vicente hopes to make her mark at the macro level. She believes the United States needs more social workers in positions of authority within all levels government. In addition to her interest in effecting change in policy and administration, she would like to provide services to adolescents in underserved communities and continue her work advocating for environmental justice.
“I am a firm believer that a degree – no matter what field of study – is useless if we do not have a sustainable environment. It is a time-sensitive issue, and we are the last line of defense,” Vicente said.
On campus, Vicente has started to pursue some of her many goals. She is currently an Andrew Goodman Foundation Vote Everywhere Fellow at Rutgers School of Social Work, helping increase voter registration and engagement among college students. With a focus on the upcoming election in 2020, Vicente is confident that the voter education initiatives being implemented will recapture the confidence of Americans, especially the younger population. Voter registration rates and voter turnout have been increasing slowly but steadily with people doing their own research on candidates who have the public’s interest in mind.
“This being said, it is challenging and continues to be an uphill battle getting people to realize it is their civic duty, but we are in the middle of a crucial paradigm shift where it gets worse before it gets better,” she said.
In a time of bold activism and political change, Vicente's tireless work is propelling her on a path to leadership in policy and advocacy.