Wayne State social work students receive national community organizing award

The Association for Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA) has selected a group of Wayne State social work students to receive its 2016 Outstanding Student(s) of the Year Award in recognition of their efforts to help Michigan foster youth improve the state’s foster care system.

The Wayne State School of Social Work Coalition of Community Social Workers (CCSW) student organization received the award for organizing and implementing this year’s Michigan’s Children KidSpeak, which on Aug. 8 brought together a listening panel of elected officials, state policymakers and others to hear first-hand accounts of the experiences of youth in the foster care system. The annual event is hosted on Wayne State’s main campus and has numerous sponsors that include the School of Social Work and the Transition to Independence Program (TIP), a university-wide program whose mission is to increase college access and improve graduation rates of foster care youth. CCSW this year assumed responsibility for outreach to participants and legislators, media relations, event registration, greeting and seating, and staff support.

The ACOSA award was accepted on Nov. 5 at the Council on Social Work Education’s Annual Program Meeting in Atlanta by M.S.W. Academic Advisor Tamarie Willis, B.S.W. student Caleb Claudio and M.S.W. student Dominique Schroeder (from right in photo above). Faculty advisor Judith Wineman said CCSW is the only ACOSA-affiliated student group and that its contributions to KidSpeak are “consistent with the School of Social Work’s 81-year commitment to both child welfare and social justice.”

“Improving outcomes for foster youth is a matter of social justice and one that CCSW wanted to put its energy behind,” Wineman said. “CCSW’s involvement shows the value of giving students hands-on experience and opportunities to apply their skills.”

Wineman said CCSW has begun to work on a 2017 KidSpeak Action Plan that will include a broader outreach plan involving “rapid response teams” of coalition members who can engage stakeholders on an ongoing basis. Members of CCSW have also joined the School of Social Work’s Ad Hoc Committee on Social Justice, which was established by Dean Cheryl Waites in 2014 to support social justice initiatives by faculty, staff, and students. CCSW this year will contribute to the committee’s Policy to Action Initiative focused on the existing and continuing water crisis within the City of Detroit and State of Michigan.

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