Gina Apgar (MSW 2021)
A New Hampshire native, Gina Apgar was raised in economically challenging circumstances but she has worked steadily to improve her destiny. Starting with her first babysitting class at age eleven, her education has culminated in a master’s degree in social work from UNH in 2021.
“I’ve always wanted to work with children because everyone needs at least one champion and early intervention can change lives for the better. I enjoy helping families overcome their difficulties and achieve their personal goals. Throughout my ten-year education journey, this goal has never changed.”
Gina is fulfilled and continuously inspired by the knowledge that she creates a bridge to the support systems that impact children and families in need. Her career spans employment as a preschool classroom teacher, a Head Start instructor, and a family support coordinator for various New Hampshire schools and community action groups.
Gina trained in ChildLight Yoga as a way to introduce her young students to the benefits of physical movement, breathing, and self-regulation skills that prepare the mind for future learning. In conversation about the many different ways that children integrate learning, she relays the story of a girl who, shyly avoiding participation during yoga class, surprised her mother by using dolls to re-enact at home the entire sequence of movements and breathing exercises.
After earning a BASc in Human Services and Early Childhood from Granite State College, Apgar was attracted to the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program at UNH which focuses on interdisciplinary training for leaders entering the field of child health. She completed 300 training hours at Amoskeag Health in Special Medical Services and Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth, collaborating on a policy brief to legislative bodies in Washington, D.C.
Mindful of her family and full-time job obligations, Apgar hesitated when UNH faculty member Trish Cox encouraged her to enroll in the online social work master’s program. The offer of grant funding convinced her to try one course as a “test” and Gina quickly recognized the value of the training and inherent public credibility of a master’s degree for those seeking to influence systems on a broad level. She completed her degree in 2021, opening the door to an exciting job offer as Pediatric Behavioral Health Provider with a New Hampshire practice to offer short-term mental and behavioral health therapies to children.
“The UNH Online Social Work program is unmatched. Within my diverse student cohort, I have developed friendships all over the country. To succeed in an online program, you must be a self-starter but the UNH instructors are always accessible, knowing when to step in and when to step back. The faculty mentored me through a job search and I landed a great position with a competitive salary. I wish every university used this online model.”
Although she has no official plans for an additional degree, Apgar admits to being a lifelong learner and is considering an online UNH neuroscience course because psychology is “an integral part of her work”.
A living example of overcoming the odds, both her children have watched their mother graduate with a university degree. As an enthusiastic Wildcat, Gina hopes her daughter will apply to UNH for her undergraduate studies.
With a spontaneous smile sparkling with purpose, Gina embodies the symbol of a brightly resilient dandelion by her warm and boundless energy, eyes shining with determination to foster that hardy resilience within the sprouting hopes of the next generation.
Written by Gwendolyn Goguelet