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Social work student embraces grassroots community development work

Jacquelyn Eisenberg

Jacquelyn Eisenberg says she is a "grassroots girl" at heart. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

During a service-learning trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, when she was 18, Jacquelyn Eisenberg taught a family to brush their teeth for the first time. One of the children was a girl Jacquelyn’s age. That experience set Eisenberg on the path of social work.

Since then, she’s been a mentor and tutor for at-risk youth in the U.S., worked to raise awareness of AIDS in Africa, taught English in Brazil and worked with the United Nations Population Fund in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. And, she’s just getting started.

“I just fell in love with the work,” Eisenberg says.

During her Peace Corps work as an HIV/AIDS health extension worker in Swaziland, a sub-Saharan African country, she realized she needed to continue her education. She had earned a BA from the University of Colorado-Boulder in 2002. With programs in both social work and international studies, DU fit her criteria for graduate schools.

Since 2006, she’s been pursuing an MSW at DU’s Graduate School of Social Work. Eisenberg’s concentration is community practice, which includes leadership, empowerment, policy, planning and advocacy. This fall, she began courses toward a certificate of global health from DU’s Graduate School of International Studies.

Shawna Margesson was Eisenberg’s professor for a community theories and practice course. She says from the moment she met Eisenberg, the student stood out from her peers.

“She did this by engaging in class dialogue, which clearly demonstrated a deep level of critical thinking,” Margesson says. “She also drew connections between what she was learning in class to her work in the community.”

Eisenberg’s community work includes her internship with the nonprofit Seeking Common Ground. She’s helping the organization develop a service-learning program that will take 16 Denver high school students to South Africa next March.

After she graduates next June, Eisenberg could go anywhere. She loves being overseas but says there are people in need everywhere. The one thing she knows is she doesn’t want to be behind a desk.

”I’d rather be on the ground, in the field getting dirty and developing the interpersonal relationships. I’m more of a grassroots girl, working one-on-one in partnership with people,” she says.

“The world will truly benefit from Jacque’s presence and focus in social work,” Margesson says. “She will make a difference. There is no doubt in my mind.”

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