Service Learning Leads to New Experiences and Friends for BSW Student

When Jess Mereshensky ’24 enrolled in Intro to Social Work, she had no idea the impact that the course would have on her and the experiences it would lead her to. 

Jess Mereshensky poses in a green dress in front of conference banners
Jessica Mereshensky
Class of 2024
Social Work
  • College of Health & Human Services
Career Plan: Social work industry after graduate school

When Jess Mereshensky was thinking about her future, she was inspired by her family.

“I have always known I wanted to help people because I come from a family of people who give back to others and provide help,” she said.

Coming into Widener as a nursing major, Jess soon found that social work was a better fit for her while still aligning with her goals of helping those in need.

“I spoke with the director of social work, spoke to other students in the BSW program and researched what social work is, I found that there was so much more to it than what people generally stereotype it to be,” she said.

As part of the BSW curriculum, Jess completed Intro to Social Work, a service learning class that made an impact on her as a student and also a leader. 

Unlikely Friends

In Intro to Social Work, students work with the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging to be paired up with an older adult who is at risk of social isolation. Students speak with their older adult for at least an hour each week for ten weeks.

Many students take away practical lessons from the class such as the importance of human interaction and the risks that older adults face in terms of loneliness and social isolation. For Jess, a friendship flourished.

“I learned that older adults have a lot of wisdom – not only did I teach my older adult about service learning and my life lessons, but she also taught me so many life lessons,” she said. “The best part would be when my older adult would thank me for calling her every single week and interacting with her – before ending every phone call, we would end a call with a little prayer.”

In addition to gaining a friend, she honed practical skills along the way such as communication, support, organization, management, and more. 

Continuing to Serve

While Jess’ time talking to her older adult has ended, her commitment to the aging population and her fellow Widener students has not.

Since excelling in Intro to Social Work, Jess served as project manager for subsequent semesters of the class to ensure other students get the same benefits out of service learning as she has.

“It is important to participate in service learning courses because it gives you so many benefits. Students can gain personal growth, improve character values and traits, and responsible behaviors,” she said. “I loved being project manager and a resource to future students because I understand the student perspective and I wish to pass on what I know to other students and see them grow just like I have.”

Guided by Faculty

Jess credits Associate Professor of Social Work Robin Goldberg-Glen as her guiding light at Widener and helping her to seize opportunities and experiences for growth.

“I am honestly not sure what I would do without her. She has been like my mentor and the person that always encourages me to strive for bigger things and grab any opportunity I have in front of me. I remember when I first switched majors I felt lost, and Dr. Goldberg-Glen has put me on the right path.”

In addition to working closely with Goldberg-Glen in Intro to Social Work, Jess has participated in Widener’s annual Summer Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities (SURCA) program twice under Goldberg-Glen’s mentorship and presented at a global conference alongside Goldberg-Glen and Stephanie Cole from the Department of Aging.

“Having these opportunities that Dr. Goldberg- Glen gave me, to speak at two symposiums as well as a conference with a full crowded room, helps me with networking and connections as well as puts me out of my comfort zone. Through working with Dr. Goldberg-Glen, I have developed both personally and professionally, gaining skills and finding the passion for management and leadership that I would've never thought I would love.” 

Career Plan: Social work industry after graduate school

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