Congratulations, to USJ student Yajaira Olvera ’23!
Manchester resident Yajaira Olvera ’23, a Bachelor of Social Work student about to begin her senior year this fall at the University of Saint Joseph, has been awarded a scholarship from the Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority (CHESLA), and she doesn’t take the honor lightly.
“This is the first scholarship I’ve ever received,” Olvera says, “and it means I can continue my education.” The 33-year-old wife and mother of three (ages 8, 6, and 3) explained that recently she got so discouraged she considered quitting school because she is a full-time worker and part-time student. “I’ve been at USJ since 2019,” she said, “and after I gave myself a little time to cry, I was determined not to quit.” Olvera reached out to her USJ faculty and advisor, located the scholarship application on the CHESLA website, and applied.
“My professors and my advisor were amazing and supportive,” Olvera said. The CHESLA scholarship application requires a student to be enrolled at an accredited CT school at least halftime, with a 2.5 GPA. Olvera, who is enrolled more than halftime, has a GPA of 3.7.
“My dream is to work with children who’ve experienced trauma and those struggling with drug addiction,” Olvera said. After she finishes her bachelor’s degree in Social Work, she plans to pursue an MSW and eventually become a licensed therapist and open her own office.
“I didn’t know all you could do in the social work field until I got into my core social work classes at USJ.”
Olvera, who took most of her classes in the evenings and on Saturdays, one of the two options of when the BSW program is offered, says she loves USJ. “It feels like a family. The classes are small, and the professors are always there to encourage and support students.”
Dr. Madeline Pérez De Jesús, Ph.D., M.Phil., MSW, Associate Professor of Social Work and Equitable Community Practice, is one of those professors of whom Olvera spoke so highly. Pérez Jesús wrote the recommendation for Olvera’s CHESLA Scholarship application and had this to share: “Yajaira is a smart, creative, powerful, and resilient woman. She’s already demonstrated her capacity to be a skilled bilingual and bi-cultural social worker focusing on urban communities. She’s pursued educational experiences beyond class and field, is passionate about supporting urban communities and has many gifts and talents to share with our profession. I am in admiration of how she excels while balancing her life as a working adult and as a committed mother, wife, and daughter.”
In a time when mental health workers are more in demand than ever, USJ’s BSW program, with Saturday and evening classes, offers maximum flexibility and opportunity for anyone wanting to pursue this bachelor’s degree.