Paying it forward
Mentorship is key to Bluffton social work major
Aryn Preston, a senior from Painesville, Ohio, understands the importance of advocacy and mentorship. “I had someone there for me in high school and growing up so I want to be that same person for someone else,” she said. With the desire to extend support to others, Preston changed her major to social work half-way through her college career.
Having spent two years studying to be an intervention specialist, Preston realized social work better aligned with her goals.
“I’ve always had a passion for advocating for people who are still finding their voice, for helping them figure out how to find their voice and to speak up for their needs and wants.”
With help from Walt Paquin, director of social work, Preston changed her major and created a graduation plan that allows her to graduate on time. Bluffton’s smaller class sizes also allowed Preston to mold her education to her own vocational goals. She names Heidi Mercer, assistant professor of social work, and Amanda Wooley, a learning specialist at the Learning Resource Center, as key to the transition.
“It really helps that our program is so small,” she said. “We’ve been able to develop a support system in the social work program and with our professors. Just talking about life and having that relationship with professors has helped a lot.”
With her high school mentor still playing a vital role in her life, Preston is ready to pay it forward. She is currently volunteering with Children’s Mentoring Connection at Bigelow Intermediate School in Findlay. Preston spends at least an hour every Wednesday working with three students in the fourth and fifth grades.
“I always ask them what’s something really good that happened that day and what was something that wasn’t so good; just to get a better understanding of how they’re feeling that day,” she said.
By interacting on a more personal level, Preston offers “someone that they can ramble to if they need to. I look forward to it every single week. It’s been eye-opening,” she said. Now, she understands that “sometimes they just need someone to be in a bad mood with” and is simply there to listen.
In January, Preston will begin her field-experience opportunity with Century Health in the mental health department. “Social work is about advocating for people and supporting them in whatever way you can,” she said. Ready to learn, she’s been studying the effects of abuse and addiction and how to better help individuals who are overcoming those issues.