By Debbie Alberico
Central State University
Madison Gonzalez has found her passions — to ensure everyone with whom she works knows their voice will be heard and valued; to help others so they can, in turn, become change agents.
Gonzalez is a Central State University rising senior and social work major in the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences. She plans to graduate after the fall semester and is committed to discovering innovative ways to meet the needs of underserved communities.
Gonzalez recently took time out of her busy schedule to share her University experience and future aspirations.
Her face lights up when she talks about her internship in estate planning with Franklin County Probate Court. Still wearing her scrubs after a shift at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, where Gonzalez is a summer intern, she smiles broadly when talking about the children and families she is honored to support.
College has not been easy for Gonzalez, who hails from Columbus, Ohio, but she has persevered, matured, and learned more about herself than she knew possible.
After graduating high school, Gonzalez’s heart was set on attending another university, but she found the price tag was not within her reach. So, with encouragement from alumni — her aunt, Angela Walker, ’87, and grandmother, Denise E. Scott, ’76 — Gonzalez ultimately landed at Central State, the most affordable public university in Ohio.
It was a decision that changed the trajectory of her life.
When Gonzalez first got to Central State, she was undecided on a major. First, she considered psychology. As psychology courses overlapped with the social work curriculum, Gonzalez began asking herself whether social work would be the right career for her.
“The more I talked to professors, teachers, and family, the more they were encouraging me to consider social work,” Gonzalez said. “At first, I didn’t think social work would be a good fit. You hear horror stories. But I started taking classes and doing research on my own, and it was the perfect fit. … I was drawn to the flexibility I would have — I could be in a hospital, a rehabilitation center, or another setting.”
Gonzalez said she always knew she wanted to help people. “I knew it wasn’t in the aspect of open-heart surgery,” she laughed. “It was more so in … meeting people’s needs.”
Gonzalez said conversations with Professor Nikkita Jackson helped her narrow down the many options for careers she could follow with a degree in social work.
Another area of interest is the growing rate of police departments using rapid response teams, which such combine the resources and knowledge of police officers, social workers, and community members to help people in crisis. “There is training and different types of situations where a social worker could be a great advocate in that space,” she said.
Despite her race to the finish line, Gonzalez did not originally plan to graduate early.
“When I first got here, I was going to try to figure it out and get my feet wet in college,” she said. “Quite naturally, it didn’t magically happen for me. I did fail a class, but I took that moment to be realistic with myself. ‘You need to focus. You got here, you took a tumble, and now you will pick yourself up from there.’
“I studied, did my homework, asked more questions, took more notes, and bounced ideas off my peers. I was doing so well that I decided I was going to get this done early.”
During the spring semester — before Gonzalez walks with the graduating class of 2024 — she will stay busy studying to earn social work licensure. From there? The sky’s the limit.
“I essentially want to get my foot in the door (at Nationwide Children’s Hospital) to work with children or adolescents,” Gonzalez said. “Kids are our little angels. I want to make sure they’re being advocated for because as children, they may not always have a voice. I want them to know that they’re just as important as Mom and Dad, their auntie, and their cousins. I want to help them so they can help people, too.”