BLUFFTON, Ohio — Rowena Zuercher, a member of Sonnenberg Mennonite Church in Kidron, is making the most of her college experience. The social work and Spanish double major from Apple Creek, Ohio, is a student ambassador, active on campus and spent a semester in Guatemala. This summer, she created her own internship through the Summer Discovery Program, which provides a $1,500 grant for Bluffton students to develop an internship experience in order to explore their vocation.
“My adviser encouraged me to apply, and there’s something satisfying about being able to explore opportunities on your own,” said Zuercher. “The grant helped relieve my schedule so that I was able to spend more time doing social-work-related work and a little less time doing wage work. It is also an experience that I can put on my resume.”
Zuercher completed the internship at Lighthouse Ministries in Canton, Ohio, where she focused the majority of her energy on the administrative side of the organization, while also finding time to teach a Spanish class for the organization’s summer program. Her goal was to determine whether to pursue the clinical or administrative route of social work in graduate school.
“I think I am going to go the clinical route,” said Zuercher. “It’s going to allow me to work with people primarily, and as I mature in my career and gain more experience, I’ll be more comfortable moving up to the administrative positions. I think I’ll eventually do that, but it’s great to focus on the people first and having this experience showed me what is in store for my future.”
Zuercher began working with Lighthouse Ministries as a teenager serving as a camp counselor. After she graduated from high school, she took a gap year in Los Angeles with the Mennonite Mission Network service opportunity DOOR. There, she served in a social work agency focused on the homeless population.
Not really sure what social work all entailed, Zuercher was “tossed right into the middle of it.”
“It was the boots-on-the-ground of social services,” she explained. “As I wrapped up my year, I had to decide a major and I knew social work — with all of the good and the bad that I had seen — was what I wanted to study.”
Entering her final year at Bluffton University, Zuercher is exploring graduate programs and preparing for her clinical field experience, but when she chose Bluffton, it was the only school she had visited.
“It just felt right, and I think a lot of students get that feeling,” said Zuercher. “It’s a small school, and the professors are invested in us. It’s been great.”
Looking forward in her career, she plans to use both of her majors to ensure Spanish-speaking clients are getting the care they deserve.
“This is in the social work code of ethics. Every client deserves a competent service provider and competent care,” explained Zuercher. “If you can’t communicate with clients, they’re not receiving that level of competency. So, my goal is to have a fluency in Spanish so I am able to provide services, whether clients speak Spanish or English, equally.”