UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
Noble-Meraz wants to work in child protective services
May 4, 2022 -- When Lexi Noble-Meraz begins her graduate school career at UW-Madison, she will already have one year of credits under her belt thanks to her University of Wisconsin-River Falls social work undergraduate degree.
“UW-River Falls is accredited by the Wisconsin Council on Social Work Education, so my senior year counted as my first year of graduate school,” Noble-Meraz said. “When I applied at UW-Madison, I applied as an advanced student. I have one more year of graduate school.”
Noble-Meraz also received the Martha N. Ozama Scholarship which covers all her tuition and segregated fees at UW-Madison. She also has been accepted into the Title 4E program for those who want to work in child protective services. As part of the program, she will receive a stipend and specific coursework and in exchange, after graduation, agrees to work one year in child protective services.
This summer Noble-Meraz will work a temporary full-time position in Washington County, Minn., as a kinship worker. Her main role is to find relatives of Foster Care children and determine if they want to become caretakers during the child protective services process. She also will assist in finding permanent options for Foster Care children if their parents’ rights are terminated.
Eventually, after graduate school, Noble-Meraz would like to earn her law degree.
“I want to work with policy reform and create policy to help with some discrepancies in our justice system, so it is a more equal system for all individuals,” Noble-Meraz said. “Parental rights are high on my list. The law typically leans toward the mother in divorces. I would like to see reform to help fathers get equal rights.”
Noble-Meraz, who will graduate with honors on Saturday, decided to major in Spanish largely because her father, Javier Meraz Martinez, is originally from Mexico.
“I want to be able to translate at a professional level for individuals for who English is not their first language,” she noted.
As a natural helper, Noble-Meraz believes in assisting others when possible.
“I think that’s who I am,” she said. “I don’t want other people to fail. If I can help them, I will take time out of my day.”
This semester she is interning at the Washington County, Minn. child protective services unit as a general case management worker to reunify families.
In her first year at UWRF, Noble-Meraz, of Independence, volunteered with St. Croix Hospice to work with adults with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
“As the disease would progress, the verbal aspect of the individuals would tend to dissolve to the point they can’t communicate verbally, and they can’t hold on to new information,” she noted.
That lead to her working at ACR Homes, a group home for nonverbal adults with disabilities in Stillwater, Minn.
“It was a way to push me out of my comfort zone,” Noble-Meraz said. “We had to perform medical tasks and take residents on trips even though they couldn’t tell us what they wanted or needed.”
This past summer Noble-Meraz interned through the Area Health Education Center at the Boys and Girls Club of the Greater Chippewa Valley-Lunda Center in Black River Falls.
“Working with a large group of children at the same time taught me patience and understanding and learning the need to adapt,” she noted.
Shawyn Domyancich-Lee, assistant professor in the Social Work Department, said Noble-Meraz is an engaged student with personal and professional experiences she readily shares in class to help students connect content to real-life situations.
“I’ve seen Lexi grow quite a bit in her field placement,” Domyancich-Lee said. “She’s really come out of her bubble and taken risks and stepped outside her comfort zone and it’s paid off as can be seen by her getting offered a job for the summer and being admitted to Madison. We are very proud of her.”
While on campus, Noble-Meraz has also been a part of the Student Social Work Association and was a resident assistant in Prucha Hall for two years and has held a job since 2016 at Kwik Trip.
Noble-Meraz chose to attend UWRF because it was smaller and allowed her the opportunity to make close friends and know her professors.
“UW-River Falls has given me countless opportunities,” she said. “It has helped me grow. In Spanish, my writing was not the strongest and the department helped me build that up. Social work helped with my interpersonal skills, active listening and how to understand what an individual is going through. It is a close-knit community. You will have someone to go to if you are struggling.”
Travel is important to Noble-Meraz and encourages others to do take opportunities to study abroad, something she was not able to do because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Noble-Meraz has been to Mexico, France and Columbia.
“I like seeing new things,” she said. “I like being emerged in new cultures.”
UW-River Falls commencement ceremonies are at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday in Knowles Field House in the Falcon Center. A total of 805 students are part of the two ceremonies that also will be livestreamed. For more information, go to the commencement website.