Student Star: Suzanne Salak

Name: Suzanne Salak
Major: Social Work and Psychology

“I was unaware of how people are victimized by those they love and trust, not by strangers, as society portrays.”

Suzanne Salak always knew she wanted to work in one of the “helping fields.” She started off with Psychology, learning theory and research. But she felt a need for more information about working with clients from a counseling aspect, so she signed up for some Social Work classes and became inspired.

The passionate teaching of Kelly Otte, a lecturer for the College of Social Work, helped Suzanne understand what she had previously been blind to, “Before I attended her Family Violence class, I was unaware of how people are victimized by those they love and trust, not by strangers, as society portrays. Inequalities in our society can affect familial relationships. From then on, I have dedicated myself to the cause of women’s issues.”

To gain hands-on experience, Suzanne volunteered for 2-1-1 Big Bend. After receiving 75 hours of training, she was cleared to answer Helpline 2-1-1. Now, she answers numerous hotlines—Lifeline, Family Health Line, Parent Helpline, and the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline. After dedicating 400 hours of volunteer work, she was promoted to Program Specialist. Then, in September 2005, she was honored as Volunteer of the Month.

This semester, spring 2007, is the first time undergraduate Social Work students have had the opportunity to complete an internship abroad. Suzanne’s academic advisor recommended the Women’s Trust, a domestic violence center in Notting Hill, London. Suzanne agreed it “would be an amazing opportunity to learn about a different culture, while also experiencing a varied professional atmosphere.” Now there, Suzanne runs group sessions, answers a crisis hotline for domestic violence survivors, and advocates on behalf of women. She says, “I love the work. I feel I am making a difference.”

Suzanne will return to Tallahassee for her graduation this semester, with plans to continue at Florida State, obtaining her Masters of Social Work. “Knowledge is power. The more I know, the better I can help my clients.” She would also like to attend law school. “I have seen many injustices; a law degree would enable me to help my clients even further.”