Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences students at Case Western Reserve University Brian Wibby, working with youth in Cleveland's Slavic Village, and Hannah Abel with families through Mental Health Services, Inc., are two examples of students building better communities through their education. MSASS' students have tallied up some 224,336 hours of community service for this academic year through their required field education experiences.
"The combined work of all MSASS students is the equivalent of 120 full-time social workers in the community every day," said Grover "Cleve" Gilmore, dean of the Mandel School.
When the Office of Field Education began adding up service hours for Gilmore, the final figure staggered the dean, who had been proudly using the number of 125,000 hours a year from a previous audit of placement service.
"Students currently perform community service in nine states. In Ohio, the people in 52 cities benefit from the social service activities of our students," he said.
"It is obvious that the social work training program at the Mandel School brings a major benefit to the neediest people in our communities. Imagine what would happen if these 120 agents of good were not in the community every day," he said.
Students are putting in even more than what's been recorded. "These are just the minimum hours our students are working to meet their field experience requirements," said Gilmore. "We know that many give five and 10 hours more each week because of their commitments to their assigned organizations."
The social work students have field internships in over 260 locations, according to Henrietta Jones, an administrative assistant in field placement.
The experience is an integral part of the program for the master's degree in social work. Each student has a paid internship at assigned agencies in their first and second years. The internships are funded by a variety of sources from the school's budget, gifts from alumni and donor support.
Field education experiences are tailored to match a student's interest in the fields of aging, substance abuse, child and adolescent mental health, children and families, community and social development, health, adult mental health and school social work and to what they need to learn as developing social workers.
"What these students do in the field experience is apply what they learn in the classroom and make it come alive," said Zoe Breen Wood, MSASS Office of Field Education director. "They also develop a professional identity as they make the transformation from a passive learner receiving information to someone who uses it to create new knowledge."
The responsibilities that second-year Wibby has as the a member of the community organizing team at Slavic Village Development are to build youth leadership skills in the North and South Broadway neighborhoods, with the end goal of increasing the capacity of the residents and youth to make community-level changes.
He has seen a transformation in youth participating in the Mound Leadership Club as they gear up and plan activities for a community project for National and Global Youth Day 2008, one of the largest service events that takes place worldwide.
Wibby said, "A shy group of kids has become a lively engaged group of youths."
"The idea is that youth make a difference in the community, and more importantly, they learn valuable leadership, analytic and planning skills that they can use in other areas of their lives," added Wibby.
Prior to his placement, he had little experience working with youth. "This has been an opportunity to learn and try out specific techniques in engaging youth in community building activities," said Wibby, who is specializing in social work related to community and social development.
First-year student Hannah Abel is placed with Mental Health Services, Inc. in the Children and Family Focused Services. She provides intensive in-home therapy for families. She has the opportunity to create interventions for families that need help and then monitor their progress.
She credits her supervisors, Dan Lotz and Kirsten Hagesfeld, as having taught her what it means to be "passionate" about one's work and dedicated to helping others.
"Being given the opportunity to develop my professional skills through independent service delivery has been pivotal to my learning experience, and I am extremely thankful to my supervisors for giving me that chance," she said.
While the agencies and communities gain much in this arrangement, they also contribute countless hours of field instruction. Each student has a master's level social worker who volunteers his or her time to meet at least weekly with the student to provide supervision and field instruction. "This is an impressive collaborative effort with our community partners," said Wood. "The agencies receive countless hours of additional effort while at the same time work with us to prepare the next generation of professional social workers. We couldn't do this without them!"
Latisha James, director of the Center for Community Partnerships at Case Western, said, "The impressive involvement and commitment to the Greater Cleveland community by the faculty, staff and students at MSASS is a fine example of how the entire university is engaged with the community. Each of our eight schools and campus centers are involved in community service and coordinate over 500 programs with nearly 600 community partners year-round. Our involvement in the community is improving the health of the people and communities we serve each day. Learn more about the role Case plays in the community, by visiting our Web site at http://blog.case.edu/community/."
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