Social Work Major Gardenia Molina (’18) Advocates for Her Community

By Hannah Werthan

Gardenia Molina is soft-spoken but passionate. She came to Molloy as a transfer student, and as the first person in her family to attend college. She is a young mom of a three-year-old Gardenia Molina with Senator John Brooksdaughter named Layla and the oldest child of immigrants from El Salvador. Currently, Gardenia is in her senior year of Molloy's Social Work program and is interning at Senator John Brooks' office.

Gaining Real-World Experience

Gardenia started her internship with Senator Brooks over the summer. In her role, she is constantly communicating with his constituents through phone calls, flyers, and face-to-face meetings. She hears their concerns and provides referrals so they can get their problems addressed. It's the kind of work that Gardenia sees herself doing post-graduation. "A lot of my classmates are interested in having a practice and seeing clients one-on-one, but I am interested in policy work. I want to meet with groups of people and facilitate change in my community," she says.

Building Confidence in the Classroom

Gardenia found her internship with the help of Dr. Amy Meyers, director of field education in the Social Work department. Dr. Meyers helped Gardenia overcome her shyness and challenge herself more. "I realized I can't be quiet forever. I have to speak for others who may not be able to advocate for themselves," Gardenia says. Dr. Meyers has noticed Gardenia's transformation in the classroom. "Watching Gardenia blossom has been a true pleasure and one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching," she says. "It is rare to see a student with her thirst for knowledge."

Gardenia credits Professor Crystal George-Moses, who teaches Policy 1 and Policy 2 at Molloy, with helping her to realize her passion for policy. "Professor Moses taught me what government's role is when it comes to mass incarceration and rehabilitation and reentry into society. I was already interested in this topic and she made me want to learn even more," Gardenia says. Crystal was impressed by Gardenia's studiousness. "She is disciplined and tenacious. She reflects on her learning. She challenges the narratives that are touted as truth," Crystal says.

Looking Ahead

Gardenia's internship with Senator Brooks will continue throughout the school year. Starting in November, she will run a group for the senator on seniors and caregivers. Through the program, she will offer support and resources for members of the "sandwich generation," those who are taking care of both their children and their elderly parents. The first topic is on the benefits and drawbacks of nursing homes. Gardenia is also beginning to work on her Capstone, researching social workers who are introverts.

After graduation, Gardenia plans to get her master's degree; one day, she may even get her doctorate. No matter what she does, she hopes to make an impact in her community. Her dedication to service truly embodies the Molloy Mission.

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