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How one student leader gives a voice to others: Meet Rebeca Perez-Gonzalez

Hayden Wittenborn
Rebeca Perez-Gonzalez, en su último año de universidad con una especialización en trabajo social, sonríe por un retrato.

In a nationwide shortage of social workers, one student at App State is taking charge, leading a club and serving on a committee to give a voice to other students.

This leader is Rebeca Perez-Gonzalez, a senior social work major. She serves as president of the Student Association for Social Workers.

Perez-Gonzalez decided to major in social work after learning about the career in a class at a community college. After completing her own research and finding out social work isn’t limited to CPS, she found that the major aligned perfectly with her career goals.

She said she wants to become a clinical licensed social worker, working with individuals or families and using a very one-on-one approach.

She said she mainly wants to focus on helping children or adolescents with their mental health through therapy work.

To become a licensed social worker, Perez-Gonzalez said she must first obtain a master’s in social work, then earn her clinical social work license by completing several hours under supervision and passing the Licensed Clinical Social Worker exam.

As a student, she is already helping others through her position in SASW.

Perez-Gonzalez said the SASW is a service-learning organization at the university that allows undergraduate students of a similar academic background to socialize and participate in educational and volunteering events related to social work. The club meets every other Monday in Leon Levine Hall at 5:30 p.m.

Perez-Gonzalez’s responsibilities as president of the club include organizing and preparing club meetings, sending out information to members, setting up fundraising and volunteer events, and reaching out to guest speakers to talk to club members.

One of her main goals has been advertising and spreading word about the club. 

“A lot of social work majors had no idea that the club existed,” she said.

Perez-Gonzalez said attendance was limited last semester. By her advertising efforts such as participating in the club expo at the beginning of the semester, active membership in the club has doubled.

Perez-Gonzalez said her leadership position is important to her as a person of color.

“I genuinely feel like as a person of color in a leadership position in an institution that’s a PWI, it’s insanely influential,” she said. “It’s beneficial and influential to see a person of color in a leadership position because it shows them that just because you’re kind of the minority in and outside of the college, they still can work up to be in a leadership position.”

In addition to being president of SASW, Perez-Gonzalez is a Bachelor of Social Work Committee Student Representative. As a student leader in the undergraduate social work department, she participates during meetings with faculty and gives her thoughts and input related to course content and things within the program that are “behind the scenes.”

Perez-Gonzalez said meetings typically concern BSW coursework and course requirements. She said she is able to offer her perspective, not only as a student but as a person of color, aiding other students in the department.

“It has been really influential and beneficial to me to get my voice as a person of color out there in my program,” she said. “Being in the committee has been so rewarding to me.”

In addition to advocating for fellow students, Perez-Gonzalez has been able to form connections with faculty members in the committee. 

She said that professors in the department form connections with students, always offering guidance and advice.

“You know that they are there to help you with whatever you need,” she said.

Deborah Phillips is an associate professor in the BSW department. She is also an advisor for SASW and has worked with Perez-Gonzalez this semester to plan meetings and come up with ideas for the club.

Phillips said she appreciates Perez-Gonzalez choosing to take on the role of president of the club. 

“I really appreciate her stepping up to the plate and doing this,” Phillips said.

Phillips commented on Perez-Gonzalez’s performance as a student and within the club, saying, “She is enthusiastic and she’ll be a strong leader.”

Abbie Serrill, sophomore social work major and SASW vice president, has also worked with Perez-Gonzalez and said her work in the club is beneficial to the club members and the community.

Rebeca is a kind person with great plans for the club and giving back to the community, and she works to accommodate all of the members of the club,” she said.

Perez-Gonzalez said she has been able to be a voice for other students in the program.

“Being able to be the voice of many other people and students within the program has been really rewarding,” Perez-Gonzalez said.

SASW meets every other Monday in Leon Levine Hall at 5:30 p.m. More information can be found on the club’s Engage website.

Para leer en español hace clic aquí.

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About the Contributors
Madalyn Edwards
Madalyn Edwards, Associate News Editor
Madalyn Edwards (she/her) is a junior English major from Mount Airy, NC. This is her second year with The Appalachian.
Hayden Wittenborn
Hayden Wittenborn, Photographer
Hayden Wittenborn (she/her) is a junior Advertising major, Business minor, from Cary, N.C. This is her first year with The Appalachian.
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