Students promote petition for social work awareness

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    University social work majors in the Generalist Practice with Communities and Organizations class are asking for student and community support to raise awareness for social work incentives.

    Senior social work majors Hannah Knipp, Skye Newkirk and Marci Milhollin are trying to promote the Social Work Reinvestment Initiative, a national project to address problems facing the social work industry through loan forgiveness programs for social work majors. Knipp said the initiative’s goals are to improve recruitment, retention, reinvestment and research in the social work industry.

    The students will visit classes and set up a table in the Brown-Lupton University Union Nov. 30 through Dec. 2. to gather signatures for a petition to be sent to state representatives.

    The petition, called the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act, is part of the initiative that would give grants for workplace improvements, research, and higher education development, according to the Social Work Reinvestment Initiative website. It would also award six grants to nonprofit or public community-based programs of excellence so they could further research and replicate effective social work interventions.

    According to NASW’s website, three factors that threaten the ability of social workers to provide services needed in society are safety concerns, educational debt and insufficient salaries. High student debt coupled with low salaries make public service careers less desirable, according to the website.

    One issue facing the social work industry, Milhollin said, is the lack of funding and trained professionals in establishments like hospitals.

    Milhollin said she learned of her father’s death when a doctor told her in a hospital hallway.

    “I can only imagine, had a social worker been brought in to have that conversation with me, how much different it would have been,” Milhollin said.

    The three students agreed that high student debt was big main concern.

    Knipp said loan repayment for social workers would not be just a forgiveness of all loans after earning a social work degree, but a repayment program for when graduates put in years of public service.

    “It is loan repayment because they are not just giving us the money back, they are repaying us for the work that we do,” Knipp said.

    Newkirk said they have about 150 signatures and are hoping to get 500 more. Supporters can join the Facebook group, come by tables set up in the BLUU to sign the petition or sign the online petition.

    Newkirk said getting people to sign the petition was the class’s way to get involved with the National Association of Social Workers,

    “Once we have signatures, we can talk to legislators about what is going on, why we believe in this cause and why we think people should sign,” Newkirk said.

    To sign the petition online, click here.