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Maribeth Nolan

Most undergraduate social work students go straight from graduation to a graduate program. Maribeth Nolan went straight to Ecuador.

"I can’t believe it’s only been two and a half years,” Nolan says. “It feels like forever. I’ve done so much since graduation.”

Within a few weeks of graduating, Nolan was on her way to Santa Maria del Fiat, a Catholic foundation on the central coast of Ecuador that serves as a school and orphanage for about 150 children. Nolan, a 2007 Franciscan University of Steubenville graduate, served as a case worker for the foundation.

In May 2008, Nolan moved back to the United States to get her master’s in an accelerated one-year program. The government paid for her education through a Title IV-E grant, which means that she owed the government a year of work as a social worker. Right now, she is serving as a foster care worker in an Atlanta Children and Family Services office. She will also be publishing a paper on the development of child protective services in the United States and Ecuador soon.

“A lot of times, when people are down on their luck, they’re used to people in my position acting above them. I can be Christ to them, love them until they’re whole.”

Every individual case really impacts you, Nolan says, but some really stand out. In one case she recently handled, both parents were heavy methamphetamine users. The father was charged with a felony and went to prison, but the mother successfully completed an intense nine-month rehab program, and Nolan was able to give her kids back in September.

“I believe that people can change,” Nolan says. “I always try to look for the best in people, to look for Christ in people.”

Nolan came to Franciscan University because she wanted to be a missionary, and came away with exactly the tools she needed.

“The underlying mentality of campus as a whole encourages you to look for dignity in each person,” she says. “I learned a lot of important things for my work: not being cynical about life, trusting, believing in the good.”

When she finishes her year with Children and Family Services, Nolan is planning to start a new foundation in Ecuador with fellow Franciscan University graduates Mariya Hachey ’07, who is currently going to medical school, and Sara Ogrodnick ’06.

“It’s so exciting to use what I’ve learned, to serve the underserved.”

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