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Jessica Karim, a social work major at Adelphi University, has been named the 2021 BSW Student of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers-New York State Chapter.

Photo of Karim. Karim is wearing a black shirt with a golden necklaceThe award honors an undergraduate social work student who has demonstrated academic excellence and active pursuit of the values, knowledge and skills of the social work profession.

“It is an absolute honor to be presented with the BSW Student of the Year Award,” Karim said.

To be considered for the honor, individuals must engage in work or volunteer commitments that emphasize a strong desire and capacity to make a difference in the lives of others, through the use of social work knowledge, skills and abilities, practice, and advocacy. For Karim, all those aspects are why she chose social work as a career path.

I’m able to connect with clients because I understand what it’s like to struggle. I know what it’s like to not be taken seriously, to struggle to be heard, and to fight to be seen as valuable.

Jessica Karim | BSW Student of the Year

A Call to Help, Advocate for Herself and Others

When looking at what led me into social work, I think a lot about my upbringing,” Karim said. “I self-identify as a physically disabled person of color. I’m the daughter of immigrants and the first person in my family to go to college. Growing up with parents who spoke broken English, I had to do a lot of advocacy. These early experiences of advocacy truly shaped me into the person I am today because they allowed me to learn how to fight for myself, my family, and advocate for what I needed.”

Earlier this month, Karim was featured in a Newsday story about the impact of the pandemic on students with disabilities. In the story, Karim shares her experience navigating online learning and quarantine while advocating for others with disabilities.

“Jessica is an inspiration to all of us in the School of Social Work,” said Manoj Pardasani, PhD, dean of Adelphi’s School of Social Work. “She is resilient, persistent and committed to her education. She is a vocal and strident advocate for her needs and this has helped faculty, administrators and fellow students gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by visually challenged individuals like herself.”

“The True Embodiment of a Social Worker”

Karim, who is on course to graduate in 2022, plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work. She aspires to be a social worker in the healthcare or medical field. “Being a micro-preemie, I know that my parents spoke to many social workers about me and the care I’d need. I want to help others the way my family and I were.”

“Jessica is the true embodiment of a social worker—a passionate advocate, a change maker and a persistent fighter for equity,” Dr. Pardasani said. “As a social worker, I have no doubt that she will be impactful and effective. We are proud of her and her accomplishments.”

For Karim, the adversity and struggles she’s overcome in her own life are what she thinks will make her an ideal social worker. “I’m able to connect with clients because I understand what it’s like to struggle. I know what it’s like to not be taken seriously, to struggle to be heard, and to fight to be seen as valuable. My goal is always to connect with clients and help them through things and give them the support they deserve.”

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