Sonia Daniel SAS'13 found out quickly that she didn’t want to be a nurse, but she didn't have to leave The College of New Rochelle to fulfill her strong desire to help others while learning in a program with a great reputation.
The Long Island native was initially drawn to CNR by the strength of the School of Nursing. However, she soon discovered that her true passion was in social work. She then sought out an internship with the nonprofit Education & Assistance Corp, where she helped introduce parents to the child support system, facilitated payments, and made employment referrals.
"I met parents that didn't want to pay child support, parents that needed support the most. That really switched it for me," she says, convincing her to make the jump to social work. "I interned there the whole summer.”
She hopes to eventually work with abused and neglected children, because it's a population that needs help and also poses interesting challenges.
Daniel has interned with the Lavelle School for the Blind in the Bronx, where she assisted with grief counseling, helped put together education plans for preschoolers, and co-facilitated support groups. In March, Daniel and a class of fellow seniors traveled to Albany to advocate for the DREAM Act, legislation that would provide legal residency and a path to U.S. citizenship for certain immigrants.
Over spring break, Daniel went to Puerto Rico on CNR's Bridging Cultures program. In addition to self-designed projects, students visit cultural and historical sites, attend lectures, give presentations, and participate in service learning experiences. "It was a great hands-on experience to see how a different country handles its social issues." Daniel visited a community center serving victims of domestic violence. "From the way they spoke, I got the sense that I could really help victims."
This academic year, Daniel has been working at Victims Assistance Services. "It has been quite the experience," she says. "It can be quiet one day or extremely busy."
A typical day consists of providing individual counseling to victims of elder abuse, domestic violence, or sexual assault. Once a week, Daniel helps facilitate a support group for adolescent girls who have been abused by a peer. VAS also gets walk-ins -- clients who have just been raped, have a mental illness, or are homeless, and need immediate assistance. Daniel has served as a hospital advocate and sometimes accompanies victims to court.
"I have learned how the court system works, and I am much more comfortable speaking with police officers, judges, and attorneys," Daniel says.
The internship has certainly brought social work out of the realm of academics for Daniel. "I have seen so many vulnerable people and how much they need someone to speak to," she says. "I have learned to be more patient with them over the last few months and try to understand how their environment influences them. I realized how much someone's past can affect them and I need to help them to cope with their struggles."
The experience has led her to become a better listener, and nonjudgmental -- important skills in the field. "This internship has had a huge impact on my life," Daniel says. "I want to make a difference in the lives around me, and I am excited for what the future holds."
On top of all that school work, Daniel has found time to be captain of the tennis team, which she's been a member of her entire time at CNR. "I have to balance everything."