UHCL alum finally finds passion in social work : 'The delay was worth it'

August 4, 2022 | UHCL Staff

Social Work

One of the most important parts of the college experience is choosing a degree plan for the next four years, and figuring out the right major is one of the most critical decisions a student will make in their young adulthood. It’s something Nereida Rendon learned when she enrolled at University of Houston-Clear Lake that wasn’t from a book: it’s OK to change your mind about your path, because what’s important is that you’re happy with your life. 

“I took a break after graduating from community college, and it was completely worth it,” she said. “I was discouraged after taking three years to graduate from community college, but I learned that we are not on a timeline and everyone will accomplish what they need in their own time.”

She said she had considered nursing and then changed to education, and had spent time working in a daycare. “I knew I wanted to work with vulnerable populations,” she said. “I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.”

She said she searched for volunteer opportunities and found her niche at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. “I began volunteering there, fell in love with it, and saw the need for this work,” she said. “I saw that social work was the right way for me to go.”

Rendon just completed her Bachelor of Social Work in May 2022 at age 28. “The delay was because everything happens for a reason,” she said. “Try something, but when you find out it might not be for you, try something else. You don’t want to settle, and money isn’t the thing you should be working for in life. You want to live a satisfying life no matter what your degree, so you have to be happy and do what you love.”

With the support of her professors, Rendon said she found her way to the perfect internship at Baker Ripley, working with undocumented populations in the community. 

“I interned in the Immigration and Citizenship program at BR, helping with legal services, and offering social services including needs-based assessments, information drives, application assistance for DACA renewal, citizenship, work permits, and helping with asylum applications,” she said. 

The internship, which lasted a year, solidified her decision to work with the undocumented. “I knew I was in the right place,” she said. “I was ecstatic that my professor, (Assistant Professor of Social Work) Roberta Leal, was able to match me here.”

Rendon said she received a job offer from Baker Ripley halfway through her internship. “I was told they had a fellowship position open if I was interested, which of course, I was,” she said. “The logistics took a long time, but this fellowship is helping me get additional skills in my career and I’m putting my current skills into practice. I will have this experience under my belt when I complete my master’s in social work (at University of Houston)  in two years.”

She said she feels equipped and ready to work because her coursework at UH-Clear Lake was was hands-on and interactive. 

“Even despite Covid and all the Zoom courses, I still felt I could advance in my skills and I had professors who took an interest in us and took the time to get to know all of us in the cohort,” she said. “It was great to be around like-minded individuals, all headed toward the same goal to work in the ‘helping’ profession.”

She added that she’d advise anyone else to take the time to evaluate what’s really best for them when choosing their degree plan. “There was a reason why I went through the obstacles I did,” she said. “I couldn’t have done this work if I were younger. It takes maturity, understanding and empathy to be a social worker, so the pauses to try and get it all worked out were all for a reason. I’m glad it happened the way it did.”

For more information about UHCL’s Social Work program, go online.