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  Social Work student stands above the rest    
  Kansas City, MO    
April 29, 2009

Avila social work student Jennifer Spiegel recently received Avila’s Dorothy Gallagher Award and the Volunteer of the Year award from Rose Brooks, a domestic violence agency in Kansas City.

Coming straight from a domestic violence workshop, the eight-month-pregnant Avila senior was full of smiles and energy as she humbly shared her accomplishments, both on campus and in the community.

The Dorothy Gallagher Award is presented to an Avila student who exemplifies social work values. To qualify for the award, Spiegel had to maintain at least a 3.5 GPA in her social work courses and demonstrate maturity, self-awareness, personal and social responsibility, the ability to think and reason critically and analytically, and then convey growth in all these areas during her time at Avila.

Along with her courses on campus, Spiegel volunteers two nights a week as an advocate with the Bridge program at Rose Brooks. Spiegel provides resources, including domestic violence education, safety planning, shelter placement, assists clients when completing orders of protection, and filing police reports. She also provides help to individuals entering the hospital because of a domestic violence incident, or who mention that domestic violence is a concern during hospital intake.

“I have fallen in love with the program since I started in April of 2008,” Spiegel said. “I didn’t realize when I started how much I would enjoy working in the field. I have the ability to provide immediate relief when patients have experienced their worst fears.”

In conjunction with National Volunteer Week in April, Rose Brooks awarded Spiegel the Volunteer of the Year award. Spiegel was recognized out of more than 60 volunteers in the Bridge program for this honor.

“I have tried so hard and worked so hard; I feel really appreciated and thankful all at the same time,” Spiegel said. “I’m very proud to be associated with such a great community resource.” 

“Jen has been dedicated to this work all year, and I am proud of her and very happy that her talents and skills are being celebrated in this way,” said Lindee Petersen Wilson, MSW, LSCSW, chair and assistant professor for Avila’s social work department. “Jen is ultra-responsible, compassionate, efficient and effective.  It doesn’t surprise me that she would receive this because she is always on top of her game, but to do so in an agency that has so many volunteers, many of whom are seasoned workers, is quite a compliment to Jen.”

While Spiegel’s volunteer work is her passion, it’s not the only job on her plate. Spiegel is a full-time student who is also working to complete 550 hours of field placement hours at Village Shalom.

Spiegel, a member of the Beth Shalom congregation, said that her faith has played a role in her career.

“Judaism focuses on mitzvahs, or good deeds,” Spiegel said, “one of which is taking care of the elderly. I feel like I’m contributing, making the world a better place now.”

Spiegel is also a mom to three boys; Isaac, 9, Benjamin, 5, and Nathan, 4, with a fourth son on the way.

“Because I pick my children up myself after school every day, it really limited the amount of time I could spend at my internship and school,” Spiegel said. “To make sure that I was using every available minute for my education and internship, I literally ran from one place to the next.”

Spiegel said that her husband, Aaron, has been her biggest supporter, especially with her busy schedule. She said that he understands her passion and never stands in her way.

“People have often suggested that I cut down on the volunteer work to take some much-needed rest, but I really love what I do for Rose Brooks so much,” Spiegel said. “Though I only have about five more weeks until the baby is due, I can’t imagine taking time off yet.  I may end up volunteering until the day the baby is due.”

In May, Spiegel will walk at Avila’s commencement ceremony but will complete her final two courses over the summer. She plans to complete graduate school, but she wants to take a break to enjoy her family while continuing to work with Rose Brooks.

“I plan to catch up on all my sleep,” Spiegel said with a smile. “I’m going to have free time, and I’m not going to know what to do with myself.”


Avila University is a private, co-educational, values-based liberal arts institution founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, offering undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree programs. Avila University is located at 119th and Wornall Rd in southwest suburban Kansas City, Mo.