From a young age, Alex Wenz knew that her calling was to help people.
A soft-spoken, tall and friendly face behind the counter of Dundee Double Shot, Wenz is a UNO senior in the School of Social Work and advocate for people struggling with chronic mental health conditions.
After transferring from University of Nebraska at Kearney to UNO in the Spring of 2018, she switched her major from counseling to social work.
“I’ve always wanted to help people,” Wenz said. “I was always really interested in counseling in general, but I realized that social work would be the best way to help the people that I want to help.”
When not wrapping up her degree on campus or working at the coffee shop, Wenz spends four days out of the week interning at Community Alliance. Like many other college students, she said that she is “always doing something or three things at once.”
Community Alliance is an organization that provides psychiatric and counseling services to people living with mental illnesses. She works in their residential program, which houses individuals who live with chronic mental health conditions and encourages them to reintegrate into their communities. Wenz provides group and one-on-one therapy sessions, helps clients keep track of their medications and educates clients on their conditions.
“A lot of professors tried to warn me about going into the mental health side of social work, because it’s just a lot,” Wenz said. “You just never know what you’re going to walk into. I really wanted to be fully immersed and to really know and understand what people go through.”
Despite any warnings, Wenz said that her time at Community Alliance has been beneficial to her understanding of living with mental illnesses. Through her work there, she aims to teach her clients that they are more than the stigma associated with their illness.
“I want to help the people that I work with know that they are more than just a stigma,” Wenz said. “People live with mental illnesses and they can make it work. Doing the things that we consider easy can be so difficult—but they make it work despite the struggles and stigma.”
Before Wenz graduates in May, she will begin working in April at Community Alliance in their residential program as a paid staff member.
After graduation, she plans to move with her boyfriend, who is a member of the Army National Guard, to where he is stationed after his current deployment. Once settled, Wenz wants to go back to school and get her Master’s degree. As for career goals, she wants to work with people in rehabilitation for eating disorders.
“Ultimately, I just want to use my experiences to help someone,” said Wenz.