Advocating for Social Justice

Student finds passion inside Wood County Courthouse

By Lindsay Laurent

Like many high school seniors, Rachel Allen wanted to get away from home after she graduated from high school. Allen’s family moved to Bowling Green from Terre Haute, Ind., when she was five years old.

Growing up, her family and friends were all avid Falcon fans, and she spent countless weekends cheering on BGSU. However, during her senior year of high school, Allen decided to return to her native state of Indiana for her freshman year of college. After only a semester she knew she needed a new experience and returned to Bowling Green to attend BGSU.

“I was unsure of where I wanted to go to school (after my freshman year), but after talking with some friends that attend BG, I decided this is where I need to be,” said Allen.  “Plus, at BG I was able to get an apartment with my best friend,” Allen stated, excited for the possibilities of starting a new chapter.

She started her college career in special education, but as she researched majors at BGSU she started contemplating a change. “I spoke with a friend that recently graduated from BGSU with a degree in human development and family studies (HDFS), and she told me all the possibilities of having this type of degree.”

Learn more about the Human Development and Family Studies program.

The possibility of working with individuals from various walks of life that have endured tragedy or come from different family situations was the determining factor for her. “It fits me to a T!” Allen exclaimed, when describing why she chose this major. She received her degree in HDFS during commencement ceremonies Aug. 8.

Ask her professors and they will agree: Allen is passionate about helping families in need. This statement proved to be true during her tenure at BGSU. She exemplified what it means to major in HDFS in her numerous work experiences and her internship. Allen held down multiple jobs, volunteered and managed to maintain an above average GPA while at BGSU. One act of service, in particular, became extremely beneficial when that opportunity turned in to an internship opportunity over the summer.  

Allen identified an internship opportunity with the Wood County Juvenile Court system during her training to become a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian ad Litem (CASA/GAL). As a CASA/GAL, she received hands-on experience working with children of abuse, neglect and dependency. In this position, it was her duty to gather information about the child, report recommendations to the court, advocate for the best interest of the child and monitor the progress of the case plan to court officials.

She had found her passion and inquired about internship opportunities with her supervisor. “I told her I was looking for a summer internship opportunity, but my supervisor told me there were no positions available.”  Then, one day, Allen’s supervisor called and told her they were creating a summer internship for her.

As the student intern at the Wood County CASA/GAL program, Allen received training well beyond what she had learned in the classroom.  She even found herself conducting pre-service training on child development. She learned about the court system, what families in the program go through and even spent significant time inside the courtroom. When she started in the HDFS program she wanted to work with child services or investigate cases, however, her internship changed her opinion. Her work inside the court and working with families first hand has become her passion.

Allen said the most fulfilling part was helping people move forward after difficult situations. “Being respectful to clients and watching them open up to you is extremely rewarding. It can be hard to feel comfortable opening up to a complete stranger and I appreciate their trust in me.”

Her passion for helping people in difficult positions was all too evident during her final semester at BGSU. During the spring semester her grandmother, who had been battling pancreatic cancer, took a turn for the worst.  She moved out of her apartment and moved in with her grandmother to help care for her.

“During my grandmother’s 19-month battle with cancer she taught me to never give up,” she said.  “Even when things were getting bad for her, she would always listen to my stories and act attentive.” Allen saw this courage in her grandmother and mentor, and persevered through these tough times.   

Her parents always encouraged her to build relationships with her professors at the beginning of each semester. Allen took this advice and sought out the advice of Dr. Laura Landry Meyer at the start of the spring semester when she was having difficulty managing the coursework and caring for her ailing grandmother. Meyer helped her through this tough situation. “I was considering delaying graduation for a semester to care for my grandmother full time,” Allen said.  “Dr. Meyer encouraged me to stick with it and helped me formulate a plan for success.”

“Rachel managed to maintain her high academic standards while balancing her family and emotions during a very trying time,” said Meyer, an associate professor in HDFS.  “I am very proud of all she has accomplished.”

Allen credits Meyer and numerous other HDFS faculty with helping her succeed through difficult times. “What made HDFS such a great program is the faculty. They care about their students and really pushed me to succeed.”

As she completes her internship at the Wood County CASA/GAL program, Allen is entertaining numerous job offers. When asked what the most rewarding aspect of her future career is she states, “listening to the client and being respectful.”  These qualities set Allen apart during her time at BGSU and they will continue to help her succeed into the next chapter of her life.