Grace Livermore – 2022 Jerome P. Merkel Scholarship Recipient

Where are you from originally? 
Detroit Lakes, MN

Where are you going to school, what is your major, and how do you intend to use your major? 
Currently I attend the University of Iowa online. I am 2/3 of the way finished with my master’s in social work. I have a bachelor’s in psychology from the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota. After finishing school, I am not certain what I will do for a career but am considering doing counseling or practicing forensic social work.

Tell us a little bit about your family and friends growing up, and any positive effect that they had on your willingness to work hard
I consider myself to be extremely blessed in terms of the supportiveness of my family growing up. My parents were always encouraging of my siblings and I and motivated us to work hard to do our best in whatever we were passionate about. I strongly believe that having family that was so supportive contributed to where I am today.

When was it that you realized that only you could be responsible for your future, and in what ways did you take control of your life after that?  
I think it was towards the beginning of graduate school that I started to realize I was the only person responsible for my future. In undergrad, there was a lot of people (advisors, teammates, coaches, friends, professors) who were very invested in my success and walked with me through the four years of college. In my experience, graduate school is a lot more independent. This independence caused me to take inventory of my financial situation and change my life to save money to try not to come out of college in extreme debt.

Do you have any mentors who inspire you to work hard and chase your dreams today? If so, who, and what do they mean to you?  
My supervisor at my workplace is an influential mentor in my life. Although I am working full time and attending school, she always allows and encourages me to put school first. She has taught me so much about advocacy work and I am very grateful to have someone who reminds me to chase my dreams and who demonstrates every day what hard work and passion look like.

Are there any causes that you feel strongly about that you would like to give back to someday, or that you’ve been able to help out so far?  
I am passionate about missing persons cases and would like to someday work for an organization that assists in the response to missing persons cases. In addition to this, my current work involves working with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Because of this, I am passionate about the response to these victimizations and continuing to work to improve it.

What keeps you motivated through long weeks of work and study?  
When work and homework are overwhelming, I am motivated by my long-term goals. I strive to remember why I am in the field of social work, and all the potential job opportunities that will be available to me when I finish my degree.

Why do you think it’s important for today’s undergraduates to have a clear understanding of debt and finances?  
I feel that the earlier that we gain an understanding of finances the better. In high school and towards the beginning of college, I didn’t really understand how burdensome debt could be. I figured it was something to be dealt with in the future. After gaining an understanding of debt and finances, I started picking up extra side jobs and saving more. I know that everyone’s financial situation is different, but I think undergraduate students should educate themselves early on about debt and finances to increase their likelihood of coming out of college with minimal debt.