Magan Martinez says her mom grew up in Mexico with limited opportunities and resources. The Saint Leo University social work senior was drawn to the helping professions field to ensure those in her own community could access everything they need.

Martinez, 28, is a native of Tampa, FL where she currently resides. She has an older brother, Jerry, and a partner, Addie, who works as a pediatric speech therapist. She is also the proud aunt of a 12-year-old niece, Jaelen. Martinez is a 2013 alumna of East Bay High School.

Recounting Her Higher Education Journey

She started her college career by attending Hillsborough Community College where she graduated with an associate degree in liberal arts in 2018. It was then on to searching for a Bachelor of Social Work degree program. That’s when she discovered Saint Leo University.

“I found it hard to find a social work degree program that offers a hybrid option,” Martinez recalls. “I work full time and was looking for something that offered flexibility. This is why Saint Leo’s BSW program looked right for me. I also loved how they had a much smaller cohort of students compared to larger universities.”

Plus, she says she grew up in a Catholic family and liked the Catholic roots of the university. And what was it about studying this discipline that appealed to her?

“Social workers are very instrumental in making a difference in the world and advocating for those who can’t advocate for themselves,” she says. “You can help force change and help those who need help. It was kind of my calling to provide those with the care and resources they need.”

She enrolled in Saint Leo’s BSW program and started her classes in the fall of 2021. The hybrid format, which is one of several options for students, holds classes at University Campus one Saturday per month and online. This structure has worked well for her schedule.

“A lot of schools only offer fully on campus or online options,” she says. “Hybrid works for me because you still get the hands-on feel of the program, but you also have online classes during the workweek.”

Unmatched Faculty Support in the Bachelor of Social Work Program

According to Martinez, her professors have opened her mind as a student on many fronts. She has made a special connection with Prof. Christina Cazanave, an instructor of social work who also serves as the director of field placement in the BSW program.

“I love Prof. Cazanave,” she says. “I love her views, passion, communication, and the fact she is so upbeat. If there was an ideal person I’d like to model myself after, it would be her.”

She has enjoyed learning about diversity with Prof. Geoffrey Simons, an adjunct instructor of social work who is also a double alumnus of Saint Leo’s undergraduate and graduate social work programs.

“He is great at explaining the different types of diversity and how to handle certain situations social workers encounter,” she explains.

Dr. Ebony Perez, chair of the undergraduate social work program, has made a positive impression on her as well.

“She is very involved in the program as a whole,” Martinez says. “Even seeing her pop her head in the door to a class she’s not even teaching shows she is very aware of everyone in the program. I have to say that all of the professors are involved, dedicated, and want everyone to be successful.”

Plus, she can’t forget to give a shoutout to her academic advisor, Susan Splain, whom she says has been a huge support throughout her time at Saint Leo.

Recognition for Her Academic Achievements

During her time in the social work program, Martinez was inducted into the Iota Gamma chapter of the Phi Alpha Honor Society. This past March, she was honored at the second annual Influential Women of Social Work event held on campus. Martinez was awarded one of the scholarships funded by Dr. Leven “Chuck” Wilson, president of The Renew Group.

“It’s a form of financial aid to help me further my education,” she says. “I didn’t really have the opportunity to pay my way through school, so it will definitely help.”

Outstanding Saint Leo Core Values

She says two of the Saint Leo University core values have positively influenced her.

“Personal development is a big one because it goes along with the social work field. In addition to developing ourselves, we are also helping others develop into the individuals they want to become. Community is also a big thing. It’s always great to have the community behind you, and Saint Leo really shows that they are one community. The social work cohort has always made me feel like I belong, and I’ve developed close relationships with my professors, fellow students, and alumni.”

A Varied Social Work Career

Martinez, still in her late 20s, has already had several opportunities to work in a few different social work settings. She spent six years working in a skilled nursing facility at Plaza West Health Center at Freedom Plaza, a senior living community in Sun City Center, FL.

For the past year, she has worked as a rehab technician in the pediatric unit at Tampa General Hospital. She works with two-month-olds up to young adults who are 21. This includes patients in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Her patients could be babies born prematurely and children who have been in accidents, suffered strokes or spinal cord injuries, or have dealt with other physical trauma. Her day-to-day duties involve assisting patients with transferring and even keeping them entertained with games and other activities.

“I truly believe working with kids is my calling,” she says. “You can really change the life of a child.”

This coming August, she will begin her internship at the Tampa Housing Authority working with kids between nine and 12 years old.

“I would say my ultimate goal is to work with lower-income children and families,” she says.

A Successful Career on the Soccer Pitch

Outside of her passions in the social work field, Martinez has always been into playing soccer. She played growing up and in high school. She recently wrapped up her final season of semipro soccer with RADD FC, a club in the Women’s Premier Soccer League. Her semipro career included a stint with Winter Haven United FC as well. She started out as a forward but transitioned into being a defensive midfielder.

Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog article was provided by Magan Martinez and is used with permission.