the moment an individual sits down with Felicia Zoffka you
are infected by her love of life. She is an incredibly charismatic
woman with big
plans to make a positive difference in this world when she
Felicia grew up in Houston, Texas and has seven
siblings. She grew up with five of the seven and her mom, a
social worker. She actually started college at Stephen F. Austin
State but felt like she belonged somewhere else and that she
was wasting money. Since Felicia was footing the bill, she
decided that she needed to make a change.
Felicia joined AmeriCorps after her second year
at Stephen F. Austin State and ended up here in New Hampshire.
She believes that AmeriCorps gave her direction in life. In
her work for AmeriCorps, Felicia realized that she really wanted
to be engaged and working with people. She decided to enroll
in the Communication Disorders program at UNH and quickly found
the program was not for her.
As a child Felicia saw the difficult nature of
the work her mother had done as a social worker and thought
that she wanted nothing to do with it. She was wrong. She discovered
the field of social work is extremely broad and that there
were opportunities outside of what her mom had done. So, Felicia
switched her major to social work and hasn’t looked back.
She believes it “was the
best thing she ever did.”
Within the social work program Felicia was looking
for an internship abroad that focused on orphanages working with
children living with HIV and AIDS. She wasn’t having much
luck finding this and began exploring other options. Felicia
decided to apply to the International Research Opportunities
Program and was accepted. Professor Lugalla helped her find an
opportunity to research the role of social workers in regards
to HIV and AIDS in Tanzania.
Being a part of the IROP program in Tanzania gave
Felicia an incredible perspective on life. She discovered how
important it is to know cultures besides her own and now understands
there is so much more diversity in this world than just racial
diversity. She saw true struggles for life and values the work
that she will be doing in her field. Being in Tanzania helped
her understand how truly difficult it is for poor nations to
get funding and how important her voice will be in the future. “I
just want to save the world, no actually I can’t, but I
want to be part of the domino effect!”
Felicia, now in her senior year, interns at the
Frannie-Peabody Center as a case manager for York County, Maine
where she recently coordinated the York County World Aids Day.
She feels her internship has broadened her skills in social
work and allowed her to apply the theories she has learned in
class. “You don’t realize when you are sitting in
class why you have to understand all of this stuff you are learning.
But when you are in practice you realize why all of the tools
and books and stuff you are learning in class are so important.”
As far as giving advice to first year students
Felicia feels “it is so important for students to know
it is ok if they don’t know what they want to do with the
rest of their lives
- to know that change is ok and to embrace change with open arms.
Change can open the door to phenomenal experiences like IROP
did for me.”
Felicia has plans to work on both a Master’s
degree in Social Work and a Master’s
degree of Public Health. She believes these degrees will help
her attain her goal of
aiding impoverished countries with high populations of persons
with AIDS and HIV. She is also currently working on a certification
that will allow her to teach English as a second language which
in turn will allow her to come into contact with more people
from cultures different than her own. It seems that Felicia already
has made a positive influence in our world!