Covarelli makes most of TWU experience

Jianna Covarelli

Sept. 25, 2023 – DENTON – Jianna Covarelli knew what she wanted when she came to Texas Woman's University. Shaped by personal experiences and fueled by relentless resolve, she was going to embark on a career in social work.

"I planned to be a social work major," Covarelli said. "That's why I chose TWU."

Of course, there are countless instances of college upending an incoming student's sincere aspirations, whether by presenting new possibilities, revealing previously hidden talents or showering crushing reality on a dream.

For Covarelli, however, there was no epiphany, no change of heart. Instead, she's made use of every resource at TWU to sharpen her vision, refine her career goals, develop her life plan and bring the full force of her considerable determination to arm herself for her coming career.

"College and higher education has expanded my scope," said Covarelli, who recently began her one-year term as student regent on the TWU System Board of Regents. "Your world lens gets larger, realizing the impact that we can have in the communities that we create and can speak into."

So add to that social work major a second major in political science. Add to that career as a social worker pursuing a law degree to become an advocate. Add to the potential outcomes the possibility of serving in the United States Congress.

Not just to help. To make change.

"I had the idea of going to law school because I want to advocate for people," she said. "I was looking at family violence. To have a legal degree can be really helpful in the legal battles that population faces. That's where the intrigue in law school came from, and now it's really turned into a desire for understanding the laws and the potential way of reshaping them.

"I think the combination of political science and social work was exactly what I want to work in," she added.

Speak with Covarelli and you will come away impressed. Intelligence without arrogance. Ambition without conceit. A first-generation college student possessed of abundant compassion.

Boldly go, indeed.

Of course, that's assuming you can catch her to have that conversation.

She's working on two bachelor's degrees and carries a 3.9 GPA. She is an Athenian Honors scholar, a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, and is involved with the Public Leadership Education Network, the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, and Delight Ministries. She interned with the Denton County District Attorney's office's Family Violence Division and with Child Protective Services. In the last year, she attended the Reykjavik Global Forum in Iceland and mentored high school students in the Running Start program in Washington, D.C. This summer, she was named to the TWU Board of Regents.

All while preparing for law school.

"My journey with TWU has been a long one, but I've loved it," said Covarelli, who is originally from Saginaw north of Fort Worth but now lives in Aubrey east of Denton. "In high school, I did not think I would be here. My early life brought me to not even thinking I was going to end up going to college.

Speak with Covarelli and you will be all the more impressed for the obstacles she has overcome. She is a survivor of domestic abuse.

"We got out of that situation," Covarelli said. "My mother raised me as a single mother, gave me the world and taught me everything I know. But I knew I wanted to give back."

Despite her early doubts of attending college, Covarelli aggressively pursued post-secondary education, taking dual-credit classes in her junior and senior years in high school.

"I've always loved kids and I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher," Covarelli said. "But I wasn't really sure if I was going to college. I hadn't found anything that drove me. I was reading through degree plans on TWU's website and read some of the courses and it clicked. I knew that that's the way my heart wanted to go."

There are two levels of social work: micro and macro. Micro is working with individuals, while macro deals with analyzing, researching and working to make changes to laws. Covarelli's heart was focused on micro social work, but her engagement in the TWU community opened her eyes. She had previously attended an event with the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, then returned when the center hosted electoral training with Running Start, a program to prepare and encourage women to run for political office.

"That day changed everything," she said. "One year later, I was a double major in social work and political science. The point of that degree and kind of meshing that with social work has just been the greatest combination I've learned here.

"The direction might have changed, but the desire is the same."

The evolution of her career goals has led her to some unexpected far locales. Last November, she attended the Reykjavik Global Forum in other-worldly Iceland.

"The landscape is unlike anything I've ever seen," she said. "That is truly one of the best experiences of my life. The Reykjavik Global Forum was about 450 women leaders across the globe, a three-day forum discussing kind of the key issues that we face globally. I have friends I met there and I stay in contact with, one of whom I saw this summer. It's that networking and support circle that we all desire and it just was a great opportunity for that."

On this side of the Atlantic, she spent a portion of her summer in Washington, D.C., when Running Start's Elect Her program returned from its pandemic-induced, in-person hiatus. Covarelli was going to attend in 2020 before COVID forced the program online.

"I've stayed in contact with them," Covarelli said. "This summer they were bringing their high school program back, and they invited me to come as a mentor. When I was a participant, I had a mentor."

Covarelli jumped at the chance. Elect Her immerses students in the mechanisms of elections and government. Participants are separated into groups for a campaign simulation, selecting a candidate and taking roles as campaign manager, fundraising manager, social media manager and other tasks, leading to an election at the end the summer.

"I stepped into the role of mentor over one of those campaign groups," Covarelli said. "It was just a fantastic experience to finally meet all the people at Running Start HQ in person, but also to pay it forward. I visited DC when I was younger, but to go back in a new context with new eyes was fantastic. Especially working with a new generation. They were all about 16-17 years old with so much energy and excitement. I took my girls to a couple of different office buildings and encouraged them to speak with their representatives, House or Senate.”

Being in the halls of Congress, it was also impossible to avoid thoughts of a potential political career of her own.

"There are days I can see myself as a Congress member, a senator," she said. "I like the Senate because of the rules and traditionalism. But I also see being able to enact change in other ways. So if a journey brings me to something or if I really feel the call to that I wouldn't back down. In the meantime, I know I'll pursue policy in different aspects for now.”

Speak with Covarelli and you will wonder how she finds time to pack so much into so little time. And does it all leave time for anything else? Don't worry, she's addressing that, too.

"Social work has taught me the importance of self-care," she said. "I really enjoy just sitting down with a book and my cat and taking a night in. I'm also a big musical theater kind of nerd, and I really enjoy going to Dallas summer musicals. I'll go to some of the TWU Theater shows. Museums are a big favorite. And there's a swing dance society in Denton.

"I'm making sure I have good balance in my life."

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Page last updated 2:04 PM, September 25, 2023