It took a few semesters for Veronica De La Paz and me to become friends because she is quiet and shy and mostly keeps to herself. We saw each other often because we are both a part of the Housekeeping department, but I was not sure if she would get along with someone as loud and playful as me. Luckily, God has a way of showing us that our differences are not a force field. Once Veronica and I began to speak, her hilarious sense of humor and great love for others dissolved any hesitation I might have felt.
Veronica is a third-year Social Work major who always knew she wanted to help others. She believes healing can happen through touch or word, so when Veronica considered the career paths that would allow her to affect others long term, she thought of physical therapy and social work. The initial deciding factor between the two career options was that, simply put, Veronica did not want to have to memorize all the intricacies of the human body. Veronica was also inspired to choose her academic discipline because of the therapists she frequented as a child. She explained, “I had therapists when I was younger, and a few of them were terrible! So, I feel we need good social workers and therapists out there.”
Social work, as she has learned, is no easy route, though. The field of study has challenged Veronica in more ways than she expected. Social work has taken her out of her comfort zone by teaching her how to serve, communicate, and advocate for others. While exploring the different branches of social work, Veronica found she intensely believes in the need to rehabilitate teens coming in and out of the prison system. “I feel like [teens previously or currently in prison] don’t have a voice, or people don’t give them one just because of their past. [People believe] ‘you’re a criminal. You’re done,’ but I feel like everybody should have a voice and a second chance in life.”
At first, I thought it was ironic to hear someone, as reserved as Veronica, say she wants to be the “voice” for those whose mistakes silence their outcry, but I believe her boldness and selflessness are the tools that confirm she has chosen the right career. Veronica is committed to graduating with a bachelor’s degree in social work and will continue until she receives her master’s in the same study.
When Veronica was a high school senior considering colleges, she thought she wanted the typical college experience. You know the one: partying all night and never making it to class. Fortunately, mama knows best, and Veronica’s mother convinced, or forced, her to give Nyack College a try. Out of her obedience to her mother, Veronica enrolled. Three years later she is still at Nyack but not because of obligation. Within the walls of our school, Veronica found focus, determination, and growth. These same qualities keep changing her and permeating different areas of her social and church life; they keep advancing her greatness. And to think it all started with the decision to heal others.