Rutgers–Camden Student Earns 2013 CONTACT Scholarship Award

Rutgers–Camden Student Earns 2013 CONTACT Scholarship Award

Michelle Gaffney

Michelle Gaffney

Michelle Gaffney, a senior
psychology major at Rutgers–Camden, has been awarded a 2013 CONTACT Scholarship
Award in the amount of $500 from CONTACT Community Helplines. She was honored
in part for her volunteer work at CONTACT, a 24/7 crisis hotline, which serves
people in need in Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties.

Gaffney will receive the award in
a special ceremony held during the CONTACT Board of Directors meeting, on
Thursday, July 18.

“It really means a lot to me,”
says Gaffney, a resident of Mantua, N.J. “To be rewarded for doing volunteer
service is pretty amazing.”

Gaffney began volunteering for
the hotline a year ago in order to gain experience prior to applying to
Rutgers–Camden for a master’s degree in social work. However, she quickly found
that she was a perfect fit for her role assisting others. “I love helping
people,” says Gaffney, a 2010 graduate of Clearview High School in Mullica Hill.
“That is ultimately what I want to do with my life after college, so I love the
fact that I can start helping others now.”

Among her many rewarding
experiences at CONTACT, Gaffney has placed homeless families in emergency
shelters. “That always feels good when you can help families with children find
homes, and get out of the cold, for at least one night,” says Gaffney, who
works 16 hours a month for the hotline.

She has also had the fulfilling
experience of assisting callers who are contemplating suicide. About six months
ago, she proved to be the right person at the right time to provide comfort to
a distressed caller. “I was able to calm her down and tell her that she was
worth it,” recalls Gaffney. “Those are the rewarding experiences that make me
feel good when I leave for the night.”

Gaffney acknowledges that she has
made it her lifelong mission to help others because she, too, understands what
it means to go through traumatic experiences. She explains that her 17-year-old
sister, Melissa, died in a car accident when she was three years old, and her
father, Joseph, is currently battling cancer. “I stay strong, so I like to help
other people stay strong too,” she says.

In addition to her service to the
hotline, Gaffney has worked as an infant and toddler teacher for the past five
years at Little Wonders Academy, a day care center in West Deptford. In her
position, she treasures the opportunity to watch the children grow, and to
serve as a role model in their lives. “Some of my kids will be graduating from
kindergarten this year, so that is very emotional for me,” says Gaffney, who is
minoring in childhood studies.

A student in the Honors College
at Rutgers–Camden, Gaffney credits Laura Goins, program coordinator for the
college, for serving as a great mentor and advising her “every step of the
way.” In the fall, she will serve an internship in social work in the Deptford
Township school district. Upon earning her master’s degree, she plans to work with
children in a clinical setting.

Media Contact: Tom McLaughlin