Social Work Students Help Local Youth

Alexis Gonzalez 

Las Vegas, N.M. — Two New Mexico Highlands University social work students interning at Big Brothers Big Sisters are having a big impact on the number of kids the nonprofit serves in San Miguel and Mora counties.

Alexis Gonzalez will graduate in May with her BSW and Scot Deily is pursuing his MSW.

“Changing the life of one child makes our whole community better, and Alexis and Scot allowed us to serve 25 to 30 more kids locally — that’s a tremendous impact,” said Maggie Romigh, regional director for San Miguel and Mora Big Brothers Big Sisters based in Las Vegas.

Romigh said the goal of the nonprofit is to create one-to-one mentoring relationships that improve the lives of the children it serves, 97 percent of whom are at risk. Her office serves approximately 100 local youth each year.

Nationally, statistics show that children matched with an adult volunteer, or Big, are 46 percent less likely to use drugs, 52 percent less likely to skip a day of school, and one-third less likely to hit someone.

“One of the most important responsibilities these two social work students have is with match support, following up with volunteers, guardians, and children to make sure that the match is active, safe and productive,” Romigh said. “When we were between match support specialists, they stepped up and covered our school-based programs just as though they were full-time employees, doing a professional, super job. They’re both amazing.”

Romigh said all interns at Big Brothers Big Sisters work for free, and the students’ high level of commitment is phenomenal.

“Getting to see the kids’ faces light up when they see their Big volunteer is very rewarding,” Deily said. “In my internship, I’m applying the principles I learned about unconditional positive regard introduced by Carl Rogers. It’s a good reminder about coming from a nonjudgmental place with clients and their families to understand their situations and life experiences.”

Deily said sometimes people think they won’t measure up to be a Big volunteer, when what really matters is showing up, being consistently supportive, and participating in fun community activities with the Little.

“I’m a Big Sister myself, and it’s rewarding to see the positive impacts on the Bigs who are matched with Littles,” Gonzalez said. “It gives the Bigs a deeper purpose to be a positive mentor in their Little’s life, and they have a commitment to the child’s future.”

At Big Brothers Big Sisters, I’m using everything I’ve learned in the Social Work Program. At Highlands, the social work professors are very supportive, giving you the one-to-one help you need. They want you to succeed,” Gonzalez said.

Social work professor Rey Martinez has taught both Gonzalez and Deily.

“Both these students are a delight to work with,” Martinez said. “They have an exceptional work ethic balanced with compassion for others.

“I’ve noticed that Alexis and Scot have a real aptitude for research, and an understanding of how research influences social work practice,” Martinez said.

Romigh said the time commitment for being a Big volunteer is minimal and there’s always a waiting list of kids wanting to be matched. She gave the example of one boy with cancer who’s been wishing for someone who can handle the idea and just be his friend.

Romigh may be reached at 505-426-8510.