Rio Grande, Ohio – The University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College social work program’s Social Welfare Policy Analysis class visited Columbus for the Ohio Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers Advocacy Day and the opportunity to meet with district representatives to discuss issues affecting the social work profession. Sheli Bernstein-Goff, associate professor of social work, said she has enjoyed working with the students as they prepared to meet their legislators.
“Advocacy Day is a time for our students to let our legislatures know that we are just as passionate about our issues here in rural Southeastern Ohio as the advocates in larger, more urban areas,” Bernstein-Goff said. “I’m honored and privileged to have spent my first year at Rio with these seniors. They’ve taught me as much as I have taught them. I hope being a part of Advocacy Day has made them feel empowered to have a voice, not just for themselves, but for Rio, our social work program and for making social work resources accessible for all people throughout Ohio and the country.”
Social work is a fast-growing profession with more than 680,000 social work professionals across the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Clinical social workers are the largest group of mental health providers in the country. To highlight the profession’s important contributions to and involvement in society, social workers and their allies across the country celebrate National Social Work Month each March. To recognize the numerous contributions by America’s social workers, Rio administrators officially declared the March as Social Work Month on Rio’s campuses with a proclamation signed by Rio President Dr. Michelle Johnston and Provost Dr. Richard Sax.
Kasey Eblin, a senior from Gallipolis, said she enjoyed her opportunity take part in National Social Work Month Events and be an advocate for the field.
“This proclamation is very special. The alumni from Rio’s social work program who I know are some of the best in our area. I can see the good they do in the community, and President Johnston and Dr. Sax signing this proclamation really brings awareness to our program, giving us the opportunity to continue educating more social workers to serve our communities,” Eblin said. “I think getting to go to Advocacy Day with our professors while we’re still Rio students gives us the opportunity to support social work as well as its values and gives us practice for when we enter our professional careers.”
The Social Welfare Policy Analysis class at Rio is designed to teach students the creation of social work policies and how they are carried out in the field. As part of the theme for National Social Work Month 2018, “Social Workers: Leaders. Advocates. Champions.” the students researched state bills that affect some aspect of social work, and wrote letters to their legislators advocating either for or against the bill. The students were able to hand deliver these while at Advocacy Day. Roger Miller, Jr., a senior from Oak Hill, said he was excited to have an active role in Advocacy Day and create a conversation with state leaders about a topic important to him.
“We don’t get to see our legislators every day, so Advocacy gives us the opportunity to speak with them one-on-one. We have the chance to really interact with them and have conversations about these bills,” Miller said. “I feel Advocacy Day is important because there are issues we need to address, and this is our chance to help make an impact on legislation for our community.”
For more information on Rio’s Social Work Program, contact the Office of Admissions at 740-245-7208.