Theresa (Tess) Beardsley is a second year social work major at Saint Anselm College. Her work began with outreach to adjudicated youth, and later expanded to support of several major campus/community partnerships. Now in her third year, Tess is a Student Support Manager who helps train and support a large team of her peers who coordinate nearly 50 community partnerships.
Tess’ well developed dialogue facilitation skills allows her to play a leadership role in assisting volunteers, service-learners and student engagement leaders examine and challenge the root causes of the structural barriers faced by many community members. As a leader of Open Space Open Minds Tess helps to plan and facilitate campus/community forums to build awareness and generate activism around important social issues.
On campus Tess plays a leadership role in the Good Grief Support Group for students who have lost a loved one. Tess helps to recruit students into the group and assists with facilitation. Additionally, Tess is one of the coordinators of the college’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness events which partners with community to help put a human face on homelessness and hunger in the city and beyond, and begin the process of working together toward lasting social change.
I was president of my high school service club, but it wasn’t until college that I began to understand the depth of community engagement opportunities and the importance of those experiences to build awareness. As a service-learner my freshman year I connected what I was learning in my social work courses to community organizations, and I began to see unique ways that community was trying to meet the needs of vulnerable populations. I quickly saw the many obstacles that created vulnerability. This motivated me to become a student coordinator where I had the privilege of supporting volunteers in work at a center for adjudicated youth. I now help manage dozens of community coordinators and continue to facilitate conversations about new ways to engage as a college community to better understand and address needs we see in community. My favorite part of the job is allowing students to explore solutions to community challenges and then join with community in action. While community creates a great lens to help people to understand social problems, the process of dialogue and reflection has helped bring about concrete ways for students on campus and people in community to define engagement that makes lasting change.