Wayne State M.S.W. student awarded national fellowship focused on work with at-risk youth

Nicholas Prys, a second-year student in Wayne State’s Master of Social Work program, has received a 2017-18 master’s fellowship from the Council on Social Work Education’s Minority Fellowship Program-Youth (MFP-Y) Advisory Committee. Funded by the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the fellowship is designed to promote the training of social workers who can provide mental health service delivery to at-risk children, adolescents, and/or transition-age youths.

Raised in Southwest Detroit and Warren, Mich., Prys earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Duke University before returning to Michigan for a one-year fellowship with Challenge Detroit, a program in which future leaders positively impact community health through hands-on service. Prys’ fellowship placement with Detroit’s Southwest Solutions entailed a dynamic array of responsibilities – he managed social media, installed public futsal (soccer in miniature) courts and interacted with homeless veterans – and piqued his interest in mental health work.

After a subsequent year working as a qualified mental health professional for StoneCrest Center, an inpatient psychiatric hospital in Detroit where he ran psychodynamic groups and conducted case management, Prys chose Wayne State for graduate social work training on the strength of its reputation for strong clinical practice preparation. His first-year field education placement at Van Dyke Public Schools, where he worked with youth experiencing trauma, poverty, and other developmental setbacks, spurred his interest in mental health practice with children and adolescents. This year, Prys will receive his field training at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, where he hopes to gain insight into the interplay of substance abuse and mental health.

Prys’ interest in youth mental health has also been fostered by his work with The Family Emotion Lab at Wayne State’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where he has assisted with coding and transcription on a study of emotional and behavioral indicators in low-income preschoolers led by Associate Psychology Professor Christopher Trentacosta. Under the direction of Trentacosta and Assistant Social Work Professor Jun Sung Hong, Prys is developing a master’s thesis around his work on the study that will examine the association between exposure to profanity and the ability of children and adolescents to regulate their emotions.

Prys, who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, praises the Wayne State School of Social Work’s support for student-faculty research collaborations and its encouragement of interdisciplinary perspectives.

“I really appreciate an eclectic approach to working with people that brings together the strengths of various disciplines,” Prys said. “Wayne State’s M.S.W. Program has taught me so much about direct practice and the faculty have been wonderful mentors. It is preparing me extremely well for whatever I decide to do – be it practice or research or academia – and giving me the confidence to do it, as well.”

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