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Celebrating Bread for the City Social Services: Marlene Rodriguez, Social Services Intern and BSW Student

Where are you from and where do you go to school?

I was born in Bolivia and came to the US at 9 years old. For most of my life, I’ve lived in the DC-Maryland-Virginia area. I’m currently earning my Bachelor’s of Social Work at the University of the District of Columbia.

What was your journey to deciding you wanted to pursue a career in social work?

I’ve been a medical assistant for 15 years and decided to go back to school to pursue social work. I was frustrated because I couldn’t help my patients to the extent that I wanted to.

For most of my career, I’ve worked in community health centers in this area. I’ve noticed a lot of patients facing the same issues and realized how much financial, housing, and education inequity there is in our community.

Working at Mary’s Center, most of the clients I saw also needed social services, and I got to witness firsthand the work social workers did in the clinic. Then I started doing research at UDC and saw so many connections between research, social work, and medicine, all things I love and want to be involved in.

My dream social work job would be researching and developing policy solutions to systemic issues either in medicine or immigration!

What has your experience been like in your BSW program?

I thought I was going to have a hard time with the workload but since I’m passionate about social work, I haven’t had any issues making time. I like being in school, I’m the kind of person that likes learning. The professors at UDC are very helpful and have been great at adjusting classes for what works for the students, especially during the pandemic.

Have you had any experiences that have resonated with you during your internship?

Working with Donnie and Melissa, I’ve gotten a lot of exposure to the clients and community we’re helping in Southeast DC. I know a lot of other students haven’t gotten the chance to work directly with people, so I’m lucky. It’s been an amazing experience. I’ve been helping with Women Wellness Day and helping the team revamp Women Empowered, a wellness program for clients that seeks to help them to achieve overall wellness of the mind, body, and spirit.

I am able to use my Spanish-speaking skills to communicate with clients, which has been so rewarding!

What are your plans after earning your Bachelor’s?

I’m hoping to gain experience in the social work field before getting my Master’s of Social work somewhere in DC, Catholic or Howard University!

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