Cristina Ledesma was inspired to become a social work major as she watched the COVID-19 pandemic unfold in her community and around the world.  

“I became much more interested in social justice and felt passionate about making a difference in my community,” she explained.  

She’s hard at work preparing for her career with Ship’s program that she credits for providing her with the theories and frameworks of social work and plenty of opportunities to implement what she’s learned through real-world experience. And she’s been exposed to social work at all levels of practice.  

“From individuals, groups, and entire communities, so often students find that they have more possibilities than they imagined,” she added.  

Through several course-based projects she’s completed community and organizational assessments. This work included gathering information and identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The projects required her to work with and interview community members and program leaders, a skill set she said is essential to the field of social work.  

“I learned so much about macro-level social work, which is perhaps the most intimidating level. A big part is learning how to evaluate programs, because we, as social workers need to make sure that there are resources to meet people’s needs, that funds and time are being used efficiently, and opportunities for improvement,” she said.  

Her latest experiential learning opportunity is with the Shippensburg Community Resource Coalition (SCRC). SCRC is a Shippensburg University Center for Excellence and serves as a learning lab for the university. Students, faculty and staff are a valued part of the center’s work. This work has resulted in the creation of several programs and services that meet the needs of the community and helps residents of the Shippensburg area access and utilize social services.  

She hopes to one day work in a hospital setting as a medical social worker. Her goal is to help individuals and families through difficult medical situations.  

“There were many instances when I stayed with family members in the emergency room and postoperative care to interpret for them and provide them with company. I understand how painful and stressful it can be, but I believe social workers are needed in that field to make the connections between physical, social and mental health,” she said.  

She’s set to intern with Adler Health Services in Harrisburg in the fall and is excited to test her skills and participate in research.  

As she heads toward the finish line of her time at Ship, she’s thankful for the experiences and people that have surrounded her academic experience.  

“The professors really care about the students’ success and my peers are also wonderful. I can say with certainty that I love learning about social work! I believe others will too if they care about helping their communities, would like to have real experiences and practice, and want to be a part of a broad and innovative field,” she added.