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Social work students present grad gifts that keep giving


June 12, 2007
The parting gift from spring graduates of Aneesah Nadir’s social work class was more than a new scoreboard, bigger than a campus directional map, more meaningful than a new logo at the school entrance.

The Arizona State University students gave a gift – in fact, eight gifts – they hope will continue to give to those most in need.

“ASU cares about social embeddedness, and this is social embeddedness,” said Nadir, an assistant professor in the College of Human services, referring to eight group projects designed by her Social Work 411 senior-year students to effect a positive change in local charitable organizations and communities.

The projects ranged from the introduction of a faith-saturated recovery program as an alternative to traditional 12-step programs to a review of current programs offered to children who have witnessed domestic violence. 

“These are real issues,” said Nadir, whose specializations include community development; children, youth and families, and religious and spiritual diversity.  “These are not just make-work assignments; they make a real difference, and these students have created programs that improve the quality of life for everyday people.”

One such issue addressed by the students is the difficult transition foster youth face when leaving Child Protective Services’ (CPS) domain as 18-year-olds.  Project leads Gwynetth Kelly and Donita Robinson introduced the Wrap-A-Round Service Program, which will provide training in the areas of communication, education, personal care, community awareness, and employment preparation to teens aged 13 to 16   The students’ program is designed to better prepare foster youth for CPS’s Young Adult Program for 16- to 18-year-olds.

“These kids think they can simply go out on their own once they’ve turned 18,” says Kelly.  “They often sever all ties with their providers, and you find tough issues like homelessness and joblessness that they are not at all prepared for.  Our Wrap-A-Round program is designed to answer questions and prepare these kids for real-life situations.

“The statistical data indicated that the outcomes for youth transitioning out of CPS custody were poor, and further indicated that the trainings needed to be provided over a longer period.  The greatest opportunity for this program is in the high need for the service.”

Twenty students were involved in the social work projects, including Katia Blevins, who conducted an assessment of the Cultural Cup Food Bank in Phoenix.  Blevins’ work revealed an opportunity to provide staff support through the creation of a social work internship.

“The opportunity to serve such an internship is an opportunity to experience real-life work situations in this type of social service setting,” said Blevins.  “The intern will assist volunteer staff at the food bank and work with the local community in the areas of resource information, case management, assessments, parenting and marital education classes, and job training.

“In short, the internship will address and service the growing demands of the food bank, but most significantly, will assure the availability of a social worker to the clients, providing much-needed resources and referrals.”

Nadir isn’t surprised by the quality of the projects undertaken by her 2007 class.

“Over the years, the students in each class have been encouraged to work with a local community or organization, get to know them, identify the challenges they are facing, and to develop meaningful intervention strategies to address the problem or concern, and positively impact the effected populations,” said Nadir. 

“The students learn that they can make a real difference; that working with communities and organizations is essential for long-lasting change.  As social workers, they are contributors in the development of community change, program planning, and organizational development.” In short, a parting gift wrapped in social responsibility; a parting gift that keeps on giving.

In addition to the Wrap-A-Round and Cultural Cup Food Bank projects, other social work programs offered by Nadir’s students were:

  • Crossroads to Recovery (Marcella Adamo, Meghan Pellerin, Carolyn McGivery) – With issues surrounding substance abuse nearly too numerous to count, Crossroads United Methodist Church will provide a faith-saturated recovery program by offering an alternative to typical 12-step programs.  Located in the community of Sunnyslope in north Phoenix, Crossroads will offer the program to its congregation and the community.
  • Project Freedom (Rebecca Hampton, Margaret Duncan) – Addressing the needs of junior high and high school students in the West Valley, Project Freedom is a faith-saturated 12-step recovery program.  Groups meet weekly on Saturday evenings at Palm Valley Church in Goodyear and discuss a wide range of issues – substance abuse, family and relationship issues, peer pressure, and self-esteem issues.  The students are provided a safe place to meet and communicate, support from leaders, and friendship from peers.
  • “Common Human Needs” (Lucia Lemus, Maya Daniels, Salvador Rosales) – The Immaculate Heart of Mary Church and Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church are building a bridge in an effort to combine a proposed community outreach initiative, “Common Human Needs.”   Based in the heart of downtown Phoenix, these two large church communities share common faith, beliefs, and similar teachings.  “Common Human Needs” is designed to incorporate a social work professional in both communities who will orchestrate resource-guided referrals and community outreach to “heal, connect and ignite the community as a whole.”
  • Transitional Housing (Lisa Garcia, Roxann Austin, Stacey Fisher, Manual Martinez) – Transitional housing programs assist youth aging out of foster care and ready to move beyond emergency shelter into a more independent living situation.  The group project involved the production of an information brochure designed for and distributed to 13- to 16-year-olds in an effort to better prepare them for the transition.  The brochure will also be provided to Department of Economic Security case managers and agencies who will interact with these youth during the transition process.
  • The Phoenix Guides to Empowerment for Children with Disabilities in Public Schools (Elisa Maldonado, Veronica Nieto, Weldon E. Saafir) – ASU Student Advocates for Children with Disabilities is a project designed to provide information that supports the life choices and empowerment of children with disabilities in public schools.  The project provides necessary resource information to parents of children with disabilities – information the parents may not know is available.
  • Children Who Witness Domestic Violence in Maricopa County (Ellen Evans, Nancy Sanchez) – With greater attention focused on the issues surrounding domestic violence, one such issue that is receiving more notice is children who witness domestic violence.  This project is researching what is being done in Maricopa County to help these children – what programs or efforts are working, where the gaps in services occur, and how to effectively provide for this under-served population.  The strategy focuses on working with policymakers to advocate for funding to provide much-needed services for children who witness domestic violence in their homes.