DSF Alumna uses education to help those in need

Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) Alumna Ivanna Vdovich has a passion for helping others—and it shows. In her work and in her free time, Ivanna has dedicated herself to giving back to the Denver community.

Growing up as a family of refugee immigrants from eastern Ukraine, Ivanna said her parents made many sacrifices by moving to the United States, and with new opportunities came new challenges.

“For my parents, they had to adjust to a whole new language, a new culture, a new education system, and a new healthcare system. They had to figure out how to get a job, how to buy a house, get a car, and more. I don’t think I know how much they sacrificed, not only coming here, but also raising their kids,” she said.

Although Ivanna said she was teased in elementary school because of her accent, she said the teasing only motivated her to perfect her English language skills by reading.

“I love to read. It is something I loved to do growing up. I devoured any book I could get my hands on and that passion has not gone away,” Ivanna said.

As a 2010 graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School, Ivanna knew she wanted to go to college to continue her education. Like many DSF Scholars, she was the first in her family to forge a path to college.

“My biggest challenge getting into college was understanding how to get into college. Being the first in my family, I had to learn all about college applications, fees, essays, FAFSA, scholarships,” Ivanna said.

Despite the initial challenges, Ivanna knew that college would pay off.

“I was motivated to go to college because I loved to learn and I knew I wanted to help people,” Ivanna said.

Ivanna completed her bachelor’s degree in communications at the University of Northern Colorado with the help of DSF. After graduation, Ivanna eventually found her niche in the field of social work, as a combination of her passions—helping people while constantly learning in order to keep up with a growing field.

“Social work is such an evolving entity—it’s always changing. I love learning about different therapies that are person-centered, and now every day I get to apply this knowledge through my job,” Ivanna said.

As a social worker at the Crossroads Men’s Shelter, Ivanna says her role allows her to explore and perfect new techniques and strategies based on her research. With new challenges to address every day at the shelter, and with a constituent base that is constantly changing, Ivanna thrives in the dynamic landscape of the field.

“Some days I may be at my desk for most of the day, others I am lucky to have even five minutes at it. I work with a transient population so the challenges I face every day can vary greatly. Due to having a number of men at the shelter with medical issues, I often take on the role of a hospital patient counselor as well. Anything you can think of, I probably have seen it,” she said.

Now, having earned her master’s degree in social work from Simmons College, Ivanna says she’s thankful for her college education, which was made possible in part by DSF.

“DSF helped alleviate quite a bit of financial burden from our family. I knew I had to further my education in order to do what I wanted to do—to help people and show them that someone cares. Without DSF, I don’t know if I would have gone to the school that I did, and gotten the education that I did, which ultimately opened up several doors of opportunity.”