Collaborative Partnerships: Bridging Social Work and Communities unity, social justice and to following the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to instill a “more culturally sensitive and inclusive mindset in our children.” Yang also researches bullying experienced by immigrant children and the health conditions of low-income children and youth with Associate Professor of Social Work Laura Hopson. She is expected to graduate with her PhD in December 2017. She plans to continue to devote her time to Heart Touch, communitybased work and social justice causes. “Social workers work against humans’ internal weaknesses to promote social justice,” she said. “I am very inspired by the mission of social work as a profession.” Cultivating Future Social Workers That passion for youth and community is shared by M. Sebrena Jackson, assistant professor of social work and director of the school’s MSW program. In 2008, Jackson founded the National Social Work Enrichment Program, a nonprofit in McDonough, Georgia. The summer camp program teaches high school students in foster care about social work as a potential college major and career choice. The field of social work is a profession that Jackson has spent more than 15 years in as an educator and mentor. In 2011, she brought the NSEP Program to UA’s campus. NSEP is
highly regarded by its university host sites for using innovative programming to help foster students find purpose while building strong community partnerships in Tuscaloosa and across the state. Javonda Williams, associate dean for educational programs and student services, learned about NSEP when she attended an end-of-camp awards luncheon for the program at Alabama A&M in 2010. “The program is vital to future college students looking to major in social work, as most students aren’t aware of the many professions for licensed social workers,” she said. “This valuable information is usually not compiled and clearly presented to students until they take an introduction to social work course at a university.” NSEP summer camps allow students to spend six weeks at UA and other Alabama universities to learn about leadership, public speaking, personal finance and what it’s like to work at a social service agency. Students take a course called “Careers in Social Work” and are required to write a paper about their hope to make a difference in others’ lives. The camps also help UA social work faculty and staff cultivate healthy, positive relationships with youth in the foster care system. NSEP also provides UA students job opportunities as program assistants and mentors.
NSEP students pictured with the program's founder Sebrena Jackson (center), assistant professor of social work, and NSEP staff.
| The University of Alabama
NSEP participants celebrate the completion of a fiveweek camp at UA.
“NSEP helps students to see the other side of what social workers have to do,” Jackson said. “The hope is that showing children how their social workers acquire the training and expertise to help them will inspire those who may want to join the profession themselves one day. We want students to remember when they have a great social worker to give back and help another person like themselves.” NSEP collaborates with state departments of human resources, local social services and colleges and universities to offer students a rich learning experience. To help students get hands-on experience, NSEP has teamed with agencies like The Arc, Tuscaloosa’s One Place, the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, Habitat for Humanity, the Phoenix House and West Alabama AIDS Outreach. Since the program was founded, NSEP summer camps have been held at Albany State University, Alabama A&M University, Alabama State University, and The University of Alabama. For the past six years, UA’s School of Social Work has hosted NSEP students. Leosha Glasper, a former camp participant from Montgomery who attended Robert E. Lee High School, said NSEP helped her discover that there was more to the field of social work than she thought. “If you get tired of one thing, you can move to another with that same degree,” she said. “I just feel like this is a way for me to give back because my social worker gave me the opportunity to get back in school, get a job — things that my parents didn’t give me. And it’s a way for me to reach out and help kids who were in the situations I was in when I was younger.”