Student Story

9/11 First Responder and Navy Veteran Jonathan Stewart '22MSW on Integrity, the Military, and Social Work

Jonathan Stewart in army fatigues.

For Jonathan Stewart '22MSW, integrity is something he holds above all else. It’s how he characterizes his veteran experience, and how he characterizes social work at Simmons. During his military service, Jonathan always felt fulfilled; however as he puts it, he “hungered to be on the other side of things — to be doing humanitarian work, as it’s the greatest impact we can have.”

Jonathan’s goal after graduation is to directly help those in need, working with the homeless veterans community. And although this community is the focus of his studies and fieldwork, he says he’s “still staying open to other avenues in social work as well, as I learn and experience all that Simmons offers.”

Safe to say Jonathan knows something about being open to new experiences. As an EMT, he was a first responder while working with the New York Fire Department during 9/11. He saved the life of a senior official in the NYPD Commissioner’s Office, which resulted in him receiving the first-ever NY Post Liberty Medal Award. After 9/11, he received a full scholarship and completed a bachelor’s and master's in business.

By the age of 21, he was a senior project manager, but watching the movie “Iron Eagle” one night changed the trajectory of his career: “I realized that I couldn't do it anymore, be at a desk job, and so I walked in the next day and quit.” He spent the next year getting himself physically ready to enlist, joining the military in 2008, where he was stationed on a first-of-its-kind submarine.

Fast forward to January 2019, where Jonathan is at the end of his first semester at Simmons and feeling the challenges of not being in the veteran community. As he remembers, it was fellow MSW student and veteran William Delaney, Associate Professor Abbie Frost, and his first-ever Student Veterans Association (SVA) meeting that encouraged him to stay — and where he ultimately found his community within Simmons.

Jonathan observes that being in school has “been hard, but in a good way. It’s forced me to look at myself. Now I'm part of the SVA and we’re together even outside of school. It’s that sense of community a lot of veterans miss when they leave service.”

Jonathan notes that he has a special connection to the social issues that affect the veteran community. Through the course work and field placements at Simmons, he has no doubt that he’ll be prepared to have a great impact on the community he cares so much about.

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