Why Human Services?
Amy Mendez enrolled in Human Services at Nashua Community College in spring 2021, inspired by her experience with the network of nonprofit organizations that helped support her son through cancer treatment.
“My middle child went through cancer treatment from 2016 to 2020, and during that time, it really opened my eyes to all the working components in the healthcare system,” said Amy. Her son has now been in remission for three years. “I worked as a nurse previously, and when I thought of healthcare, I thought of nurses and doctors. But being on the receiving end, it opened my eyes to a lot of new areas, especially nonprofit work.”
She got in touch with staff at NCC, and asked how to create a pathway toward that type of work, and they recommended the Human Services program.
So far, Amy said she’s had a great experience. “The professors have been amazing. They know that we have families and jobs, and a lot going on besides school; it’s been really nice fitting it.”
Having started at NCC during the pandemic, Amy’s had a chance to try classes in person and online – but said the flexibility has been a perk. “I’ve done some hybrid, online, and in-person. That’s the best part of it, I can pick and choose and fit it into my life.”
As a Human Services student, Amy participated in an internship with a community partner, and chose the New Hampshire Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) where she worked as a mentor for 14-17-year-old teens.
“I got a lot out of it. It’s a lot of one-on-one work and listening, and being a positive example for the girl I’m working with. The internship for class was only 3 months, but when I signed up with DCYF I had to make a year commitment with them. I’m still mentoring now through January for my one-year commitment, and I can continue on after that if I want.”
Head of the Human Services program, Prof. Jayne Barnes said, “Amy’s creativity in helping develop her unique first internship with DCYF allowed her to spread her wings in the community and positively impact those involved with her work.”
“My goal is to work within the pediatric oncology world, whether in a nonprofit to assist families, or being a child life specialist working with families – hopefully on an oncology floor,” said Amy.
She’s currently researching exactly what her educational path would look like for each option, beyond earning her associate degree in Human Services. “I am taking an informational session on ‘child life’ in October. And for my Capstone, I’m going to Christopher’s Haven in Boston; they provide housing for children in treatment. So, between the two I can figure out what to do from there.”
While returning to college later in life is common, Amy said it was still a challenge finding the resolve to return. “Being older, I was really hesitant going back to school, I thought I was going to be surrounded by students right out of high school. Instead, it’s really a blended community, and supportive. There are so many different ages here, and people on their second and third careers.”
Prof. Barnes said Amy is a role model for many Human Services students, while continuing to learn from all of her experiences. “Amy is an exceptional woman who continues to demonstrate resilience and courage in both her personal as well as academic areas.”
She noted Amy is also a gifted writer, and “An essential part of our hybrid course learning community where she demonstrates her compassion and empathy as well as her knowledge of the weekly theme.” Barnes said the Human Services community at NCC continues to learn from Amy.
“It’s such a welcoming environment, that is the best part. No matter where you are in your life, you can fit. There’s a girl who’s in the same major as me, and she’s right out of high school, and that doesn’t even matter. Everyone feels like they’re exactly where they need to be, and it fits. It’s a wonderful little community here.”
Being an experienced student had its benefits too, she said, “Honestly, I’m better at school now than when I was younger. I’m better at multitasking, and time management – that has been the biggest asset.”