Niagara University students, from left, Maggie Bulger, Julianne Reese and Gillian Belcher are pictured at a conference of the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty. Through the program, the students are assisting poverty-relief efforts this summer in Roanoke, Greensboro and Cleveland.

At the end of June, Maggie Bulger did what many rising college seniors do during the summer: she packed a suitcase and headed south.

But Bulger’s motivation wasn’t to find a beach and soak up the sun; rather, the Niagara University social work major was on her way to Virginia to intern with the Prevention Council of Roanoke County and the Urgent Love Initiative for eight weeks.

Bulger, who lives in Buffalo, found the opportunity through the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty (SHECP), a program that places interns in nonprofit organizations that are focused on assisting individuals living on the margins.

The consortium’s charge, according to SHECP board member Dr. Kevin Blair, corresponds well with the Catholic and Vincentian mission of Niagara University, where Dr. Blair serves as chair of the social work department. He and Dr. David Taylor, an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at NU, recruit students for the internship every year.

While Bulger helps to alleviate poverty in Roanoke, fellow NU students Gillian Belcher and Julianne Reese are assisting poverty-relief efforts in Greensboro, N.C., and Cleveland, Ohio, respectively.

Bulger said that she has learned a great deal about herself and substance abuse disorders since her internship commenced June 4. On her first day as an intern, she was trained in REVIVE!, an opioid overdose and naloxone education program, and later learned how to use Narcan, something she said she had eagerly been trying to find time to do at home.

Bulger has also been immersed in research, collecting data and making contacts throughout the 26-county “neighborhood” for a new Urgent Love Initiative website. She added that her interactions with the organization’s executive director, Nancy Hans, have further reinforced her aspirations of becoming a social worker.

“I decided to pursue a career in social work because I have always had a passion for helping people,” Bulger said. “I wish to be an advocate for people who may not know how to advocate for themselves. My goal as a future social worker is to obtain my master’s degree in social work and pursue a career in a hospital as a medical social worker.”

To learn more about Niagara University’s social work program, please call 716.286.8520 or visit

Additional information on the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty is available at