Coalition of Community Social Workers launches new award spotlighting student social justice efforts

For many, the field of social work brings on thoughts of individual counseling and case management however; social workers can be found in every facet of society working with individuals, groups and communities. A group of Wayne State University students is working to support the burgeoning field of macro social work and connect with our Detroit community through the Coalition of Community Social Workers (CCSW) student organization.

Rajan Varmon headshot
Rajan Varmon, CCSW President

Housed in the Wayne State School of Social Work (SSW), CCSW is led by President Rajan Varmon with support from Vice President Nicholas Alexander. CCSW is an alliance-based student organization focused on connecting social work students with other social science and community-focused majors across the university. “I encourage all social work students to become more involved with CCSW and gain insight into macro-level initiatives involving program planning, community development, and advocacy,” noted Varmon. CCSW students participate in political action, community organizing activities, and volunteer opportunities to further the school’s urban mission. Additionally, CCSW is a participating member of the Social Work Student Alliance (SWSA photographed above), a student-run organization designed to expand the focus on student organizations and issue advocacy, improve social work students' overall well-being and assist with student learning.

We work to strengthen student leadership skills through the development of annual initiatives with clearly assigned roles for each member. Being a part of CCSW has provided me with the opportunity to hone my leadership skills and allowed me to positively impact the lives fellow Detroiters.  – Nicholas Alexander, CCSW Vice President

Nicholas Alexader headshot
Nicholas Alexander, CCSW Vice President

In 2016, the Association for Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA) awarded CCSW with its 2016 Outstanding Student(s) of the Year Award in recognition for their efforts to help Michigan foster youth improve the state's foster care system. CCSW utilized their organizing and implementation skills to curate the 2016 Michigan's Children KidSpeak event, which brought together elected officials, state policymakers and community members to hear first-hand accounts of the experiences of youth in the foster care system.

For the 2021-22 academic year, CCSW is looking to expand student engagement and community development opportunities within the School and launch a new student driven award recognizing student social justice efforts outside of the classroom. The Student Excellence of Social Justice Award will spotlight student social justice accomplishments, achievements, and excellence outside of regular coursework completed within the SSW and university.

CCSW is not only a student organization, but also serves as a medium that helps students gain experience with the planning and implementation of macro-level initiatives within the field of social work. The creation and implementation of the Student Excellence of Social Justice Award has provided CCSW students with the perfect opportunity to utilize the planning and organizational skills they will need when working in the community, while recognizing the impactful activities of our Social Work Warrior student body. – Rajan Varmon, CCSW President

The award is open to full- and part-time WSU School of Social Work students. Application materials include a resume, statement demonstrating leadership, advocacy, and community building, planning or service activities that advance social justice. Additionally a reference letter is recommended but not required. Up to five students will be selected annually to receive the award. Applications will be accepted from January 5 – March 18, 2022 and can be submitted here.

“For over 20 years, CCSW students have gone beyond the classroom to organize events to serve the broader community,” stated  Social Work Professor and CCSW Faculty Liaison Richard Smith, PhD. “Some years it has been coat drives for homeless children, other years raising awareness about refugees or voter education. I've been inspired by the energy students bring in CCSW and look forward to seeing the impact of this new award!”

Students can get involved with CCSW by emailing CCSW President Rajan Varmon at or contacting CCSW via Get Involved.

Hero photo caption: Social Work student org leaders and staff. Back row from left with affiliation: Stacey Woggon (Social Work Peer Support - SWPS), Nicholas Alexander (CCSW), Andre Iadipaolo (Social Work Student Alliance - SWSA) and Rajan Varmon (CCSW). Front row from left with affiliation: Samantha Dwornick (SWPS), Tina Zerilli (Social Work Queer Alliance - SWQA), and Kristen Prasiloski (SWQA).

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