Social Work Students Reflect on Service-Learning Experiences
Barry social work students reflected on their service-learning experiences during a recent end-of-semester symposium. The 16 students had logged more than 720 hours of community service as part of SW 323: Service-Learning and Social Work Practice.
For one student, the experience was “enlightening.” For another, it was “mind-altering.”
Lourdy Cesar said his experience at Farm Share enhanced his “sense of civic engagement.” Rosa Gordon, who was assigned to the same community organization, said the service-learning project opened her eyes to food waste. As a result, she added, she was “making a commitment to be less wasteful and to consider the impact of waste on natural resources.”
Each student who took the service-learning course was required to provide at least 45 hours of service to one of three community organizations – Farm Share, Sinai Plaza Rehabilitation and NursingCenter, or Special Olympics Florida.
Farm Share’s mission is to alleviate hunger and malnutrition by recovering and distributing fresh and nutritious food to people who need it.
The students assigned to Farm Share had Ileana Abreu as their site supervisor. Abreu, the director of communication and development, said 3 in 10 Florida children experienced food insecurity. Speaking at the symposium, she mentioned that Farm Share concentrated its food distribution on communities deprived of fresh produce, which included “food deserts” such as Opa-Locka.
During the spring semester, students addressed food-insecurity and food-waste issues. They took part in food-distribution events and assisted with administering a survey in Opa-Locka, in Miami-Dade County, and tallying survey responses from Pahokee, in Palm Beach County.
Farm Share had asked Cesar, Gordon, and their teammates Bridget Andres and Shykera Coats to watch the documentary “Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story.” The students also read a report titled “Income & Poverty in Miami-Dade County: 2013.”
Sinai Plaza is one of seven centers operated by the Plaza Health Network. Located across the street from the main entrance to Barry’s MiamiShores campus, the 150-bed facility is a convenient service site for students. Seven students who took SW 323 formed “Team Sinai” for their service-learning project, which included conversations, games, and other social activities with residents of the nursing home.
Caroline Flores, King Guerrero, Alexis Prada, Luis Quinones, Johanna Rodriguez, Jennifer Sanhou, and Benedetie Sylvain all found the Sinai Plaza experience valuable because it “heightened our awareness of such a vulnerable population.” It was members of that group who called the experience “enlightening” and “mind-altering.”
Sinai Plaza Activities Director Nelson Ramirez and one of the nursing home residents attended the symposium. Ramirez told the students that they had made a positive impact on the lives of the residents.
Special Olympics Florida’s volunteer manager Amanda Spies joined students Bridget Andres (who split her service between that organization and Farm Share), Caitlin Connor, Decsiree Gonzalez, Cynthia Salazar, Marvin Fremont, and Efrem Scott for their reflection. Group members shared their experience supporting the organization’s work of providing year-round sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
The students supported the organization’s Camp Shriver and its Jack in the Park precursor as well as the Special Olympics 5K Run and R-Word Campaign. They fulfilled leadership and counseling roles at the camp, Spies noted.
Miami’s MoorePark was the venue for the 2016 Camp Shriver. The camp is named for Eunice Kennedy Shriver, President John F. Kennedy’s sister, who started the event on her Maryland farm in 1962. CampShriver led to the founding of Special Olympics.
The national R-Word Campaign seeks to “spread the word to end the word.” The goal is to create more accepting attitudes and communities for all people by bringing attention to the power of language. The organizers of Barry’s participation in the campaign invited students to take the R-word pledge – to eliminate exclusive, offensive, and derogatory language from their conversations with family and friends and on social media.
Preeti Charania, LCSW, was the SW 323 course instructor for the spring 2016 semester. She described her students as passionate and engaging.
The Ellen Whiteside McDonnell School of Social Work held its third annual Service-Learning Symposium in its RileyCenter just before the spring semester drew to a close. The symposium provided an opportunity for the students and faculty to thank community partners for facilitating the service-learning projects.
Participants included the Bachelor of Social Work Program Director Jennifer Williams; Master of Social Work Program Director Maria Teahan; Dr. Mitchell Rosenwald, associate professor and former SW 323 instructor; and Yvonne Alonso, administrative assistant for student services.
Dr. Glenn Bowen, director of the Center for Community Service Initiatives (CCSI), and Liz James, experiential learning coordinator, attended the symposium.