“Florida State’s Criminology program is rated one of the best in the nation,” says Stephanie Marens, who wanted an education to prepare her for work in law enforcement or the correctional system. She soon realized, however, that “to stop the cycle of recidivism and incarceration, rehabilitation must take place. To help both criminals and victims of crime, one must utilize skills from the helping professions.”
What prompted her change in attitude? “Once completing courses in corrections, victimology, and criminal justice,” Stephanie says, “it was clear that our current ‘justice’ system is anything but.”
As a freshman, Stephanie joined CHICS at FSU (Caring and Helping in Community Service), a volunteer-based organization that serves Leon County and supports state and national organizations—from fundraising for Shand’s Hospital and the American Cancer Society to knitting for Warm Up America. Stephanie’s responsibilities began as the Dance Marathon representative and have grown to include the roles of historian and webmaster and this past year, as president. She says, “I have continued to spread the word of how, with very little effort, you can help those in need.”
From her involvement with Warm Up America, Stephanie founded HeArts for Covenant Hospice, in the summer of 2006. HeArts, a not-for-profit, volunteer-based program, provides warmth for the patients and caregivers of Covenant Hospice by creating handmade blankets, shawls, caps, and booties. Donations from two “wonderful yarn stores”—Wooly Bully and Really Knit Stuff—started the program rolling.
At Covenant Hospice, Stephanie “learned to understand the value of grief, which is often painful, yet emotionally cathartic. It’s important to support the loved ones of those receiving palliative care and help them come to terms with their feelings.” She now plans to enter the master’s of Social Work program in the fall, with an aim to working in gerontology or aging and old age.
In her quest for a career, Stephanie has come full circle. She says, “I grew up volunteering in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, as this was my mother’s career. Recently, I made the connection. Our younger generations have a valuable, untapped resource in the older adults around us. We have much to learn and are often reluctant to see our elders as a source of wisdom.”