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CALS alumna leads 2020 spring graduate to family, youth and community sciences major

An encounter with a family, youth and community sciences (FYCS) alumna led Merari Flores Saldana to the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS).

While working as a volunteer one summer, Merari asked one of the employees about her role at the volunteer site and about her college experience as an FYCS major.

“I remember feeling really excited listening to her experience in the major,” Merari said. “I scheduled an appointment with Mrs. Kathryn Ivey, one of the advisors in the department, and changed my major right away.”

Merari Saldana outside Stephen C. O'Connell Center at UF Career ShowcaseOne of Merari’s most memorable moments from college was interning as a child advocate and shadowing therapy sessions. This experience solidified her choice to become a clinical social worker, specifically working with children who have experienced trauma.

“I am also incredibly grateful for the advisors and professors in the Family, Youth and Community Sciences Department,” Merari said. “They promoted my growth as a student with their support and mentorship. I am also appreciative of the college for supporting my research experience; it was a very enriching opportunity.”

One of Merari’s most challenging experiences in college was conducting research and subsequently writing an honors thesis. In reflecting upon the experience, Merari said that research challenges one to think abstractly and critically. She wanted to face that trial and prove to herself that she was fully capable of tackling an honors thesis. “I gained valuable and skills from this, and it has opened the doors to many opportunities,” she said.

Merari encourages younger students to build strong relationships with professors and ask questions. These foundational relationships with professors made her experience at UF rewarding.

“Professors are there to support the growth of students,” she said. “I learned many things from my professors in regard to my field, but I also learned a great deal about life from them. I was very fortunate to have professors that not only educated me but also mentored me.”

After graduation, Merari will attend graduate school for her master’s in Clinical Social Work at Florida State University this fall. (She wants it to be known she will always be a Gator at heart!)

She wishes to express her deepest gratitude to all of the professors, advisors and graduate students in the Family, Youth and Sciences Department who have been a part of her journey at UF. She is especially thankful to Dr. Forthun, Kate Fletcher and Dr. Moore.

  • Forthun believed in her idea for a research project and honors thesis and served as her mentor. “I appreciate his time, patience and wisdom,” Merari said.
  • Kate Fletcher was Merari’s first professor in Family, Youth and Community Science. “I remember in the intro class, she took the time to remember everyone’s names in the lecture hall,” Merari said. “From there, I built a very meaningful relationship with her. I would like to thank her for her constant encouragement and for believing in me when sometimes I felt like I could not.”
  • Moore encouraged Merari to conduct research. “I would like to thank her for her patience and assistance every time I went into her office hours at least twice a week for help in her Research Methods class.”

Merari also thanks Dr. Al Wysocki and Matthew Brannan in the CALS Dean’s Office for believing her research idea and supporting her research by accepting her into the University Scholars Program.

Merari Flores Saldana
Family, Youth and Community Sciences Major
Spring 2020 Bachelor’s Degree Graduate

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