Rebekah Lewis ’23: PSU Is an Incredible Community

Rebekah “Reba” Lewis ’23 was raised in a rural town in Utah where immersion in a strict religion was commonplace. After grieving the deaths of two brothers and surviving compounding traumas, Lewis felt disconnected from her church community and needed to advocate for herself by moving out of the area. 

“That’s why I am here,” says Lewis, who will earn her bachelor’s degree in social work in the spring. “I realized how much I was wronged, and how much I had seen, and I couldn’t not do anything about it anymore. Plymouth State has changed my life. It’s an incredible community, and it showed me a whole new life that I could have.” 

With gratitude, Lewis has been learning and taking advantage of all opportunities presented to her. She’s a three-year volunteer for the Circle Program, a nonprofit serving youths in the state who are socially and economically disadvantaged. She helped found the Plymouth Area Network to Help End Racism (PANTHER) and is currently absorbed in a 450-hour field practicum with the Youth Assistance Program in Tilton, NH, counseling at-risk youth.   

Last year, PSU’s social work faculty nominated Lewis to serve as the University’s representative to the state chapter for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and she has delved deeply into that work, getting involved in issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice; creating a broad-scope network of industry peers; and presenting the student perspective to those professionals. 

On Friday, March 3, she will receive one of two Student of the Year Awards granted in New Hampshire by the NASW for her work. She learned about this honor while taking part in a virtual board meeting and was pleased she was set on “mute” because she squealed out loud. “I feel in awe—incredibly supported that people see the potential that I have a hard time seeing in myself,” she says. 

Professor Alison Mitchell has had Lewis in over a half dozen classes and sees her as unique in her maturity and leadership skills. “She has demonstrated she can take advantage of opportunity to gain new experiences and that can only help her as she goes out in the professional world,” Mitchell says. “She’s incredibly committed to social justice and systems-level change. She’s going so far above and beyond what we might expect of a student to live into the values and skills we’re teaching her.” 

Lewis’s own ideals were what drove her to leave Utah for a community that fit her better. She began her education in Idaho before moving to Plymouth, NH, to work as a paraprofessional at Campton Elementary School. A year later, she began her PSU experience, serving the Circle Program as a mentor and shaping PANTHER. 

“I needed to find a new path. Some incredible people have helped me find my way,” she says. 

On the NASW-NH board, Lewis is taking part in seminars and webinars and will co-present at the NASW-NH annual conference on May 24–25 in northern New Hampshire. “I love going to the events and making connections,” she says. “It makes my goals seem extremely tangible.” 

Lewis says PSU has helped her realize she is drawn to legislation, system change, networks, and awareness-raising. She is still narrowing down precisely what she’d like to do after graduation. “I have so much I want to do on every level, and there is so much need in social work,” she says. “Wherever I gain passion and confidence, I know I’ll be needed.”