Social Work Alumna Alexia Betances Rises from Tragedy to Help Others, Inspiring the Generosity of Donors
For Alexia Betances ’21, ’23, Florida Atlantic has been more than a place to pursue her passion for social work. It’s also been a place of healing – and thriving. Her story is truly one of perseverance, courage, inspiration and resilience. The Coral Springs, Florida, native has overcome tremendous challenges associated with a tragedy 13 years ago that would forever change the course of her life. In an unimaginable turn of events, Alexia’s father took her mother’s life and his own, while she and her brothers were nearby.
Shortly thereafter, the Department of Children and Families became involved, and Alexia and her brothers were adopted by their aunt and uncle. Their child welfare case manager was a
social worker – the first one Alexia had ever met. Alexia would learn to process the trauma of this tragedy with the help of a therapist and a compassionate social worker. Recognizing that her journey toward resilience could also help others, Alexia began pursuing opportunities in which she could make a difference. At the age of 12, Alexia began volunteering in the Broward County school district, assisting her aunt, a teacher at Palmview Elementary and Westchester Elementary Schools, with school initiatives and activities. She also frequently engaged in community beach cleanups and local garden restoration.
“Through volunteer work, I witnessed the impact it had on others,” Alexia said. “It fueled my passion for helping people. Performing acts of kindness fill you with the joy from those you’ve helped.” While completing her senior year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, she researched colleges with social work programs, finding that FAU’s Sandler School of Social Work had one of the best programs. Upon acceptance to FAU, Alexia became immersed in her education and participated in several student and community-based organizations. After completing a Bachelor of Social Work degree in 2021, she pursued a Master of Social Work degree. During her field placement, Alexia worked as a child welfare case manager at ChildNet – the very same position within the same agency as the social worker who helped her heal and thrive.
“Using the skills and training from my classes, I was able to help other children and families going through similar situations,” Alexia said. “I learned how to advocate for my clients and use different techniques to help guide them.”
During both degree programs, Alexia received multiple academic and community involvement scholarships, but still accrued significant student loans as she approached graduation. At the annual Heart of Social Work event in 2023, Alexia presented her award-winning essay, “Perseverance.” Deeply touched by her moving presentation, Susan and Charlie Emby contacted the school, requesting to award Alexia a full scholarship to pay off all her remaining student debt.
“After hearing about Alexia’s journey, we felt the overwhelming need to provide some additional support and show her that people care and want her to be successful in reaching her goals, despite all the setbacks and adversity she experienced,” the Embys said.
“I was so grateful!” Alexia shared. “While I have been through a lot in my life, and so much has happened on my journey, it means the world to me that the Embys were so moved by my essay.”
Today, the alumna is dedicated to transforming lives in South Florida. Alexia is a school-based intervention counselor at the Drug Abuse Treatment Association in Palm Beach Gardens. She is co-located at William T. Dwyer High School, where she helps children and families focus on reducing risk factors associated with substance use progression and mental health challenges.
To learn more about how Florida Atlantic is providing scholarships that propel student success, as well as how Transcend Tomorrow: The Campaign for Florida Atlantic University is working to train more health care workers and create a healthier environment, visit transcendtomorrow.fau.edu.
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