A collage: 1) Silver student Frankie Molina sitting in the grass at a park, 2) New York City storefronts, 3) A quilt that reads “Barrio” draped on a fence.

“If there’s anything I’ve learned in my time at NYU, it’s that social work is more of a calling than an interest,” says Frankie Molina. “And we’re all here because we’re not good at math.” Growing up as the child of immigrants in Spanish Harlem, Frankie realized that things were “different” for his community. His parents taught him empathy, and from a young age, he recognized the negative impact of poverty on his friends and family. As he got older, he wanted to make things better, but didn’t know how. When he applied to NYU for psychology and sociology, his friends urged him to consider the NYU Silver School of Social Work instead. Nearly four years later, he’s found a path that lets him help others full-time.

Building Community

A student government participant throughout high school, Frankie joined Silver’s Undergraduate Student Government Association (USGA) during his first semester at NYU. He was eager to find a sense of community while effecting positive change for his classmates. While he joined USGA as a delegate, he’s now copresident alongside Nabila Basar. “Before the pandemic, I had a bunch of big ideas,” he says. “Now I’ve had to pivot my expectations. Making sure the community is doing OK is my biggest goal this year. The pandemic has taken a toll, and surviving is the important part. But I also want to plant seeds for the future.” In the year ahead, Frankie hopes to improve the internship application process and increase communication between the administration and students.

Closing the Opportunity Gap

In addition to USGA, Frankie is a member of the Jumpstart Program at NYU, a national early education organization. Jumpstart trains college students to close the opportunity gap by teaching and inspiring preschool children in under-resourced neighborhoods. Every week, Frankie works alongside educators and peers to ensure kindergarten readiness and give children the individualized attention they need to thrive. “Working with Jumpstart has made me want to advocate for early childhood education access and equity in my career as a social worker,” he affirms. “Plus, I get to meet the most adorable children, who make me smile no matter what.”

Growing in the Classroom

At Silver Frankie has taken a number of inspiring classes. However, his courses with Professor Zoila Del-Villar stand out. Last year he took the Social Welfare Agencies and Organizations course with her. This semester, he’s taking her Social Welfare Programs and Policies class. While the classes were intense for him at first, they shaped his viewpoint and path at NYU and beyond. In particular, Professor Del-Villar’s courses taught him to examine and question his role in entrenched social systems. “These classes provided lessons that I’ll take with me everywhere I go—as a student, a New Yorker, and a social worker,” Frankie says.

Seeking New Solutions

After nearly four years at Silver, Frankie’s aspirations haven’t changed since he first decided to be a social worker. He wants to work at the community level, helping organizations and empowering individuals to advocate for change. In particular, he’s interested in anti-gentrification and anti-displacement causes. To that end, he plans to pursue his Master of Social Work, with a focus on community organizing. “I remember watching the show The Get Down a few years ago. In it, one of the characters ran a community center for the South Bronx in 1970s New York. It was just a show, but seeing someone take direct action to help people whom the government has failed was inspiring,” Frankie explains. “I want to keep doing that on-the-ground work in the years ahead. And thanks to NYU, I know how to get there.”