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Social Work Major Engages Students with Local Community

May 02, 2017

Laura Lemire
Communications and Marketing
(603) 641-7242

Amber Lemoyne with Bridget Parece-Grogan, the Student Assistance Program (SAP) coordinator for Manchester Memorial High School.Since Saint Anselm College established the social work major in 2015, the opportunities for community engagement have only continued to grow. Committed to social justice and serving others, seven senior social work students are gaining knowledge in the classroom and developing practical skills in the field to better prepare them for careers in public service.

As a culmination of their studies, senior social work majors are required to complete a capstone project that consists of an intensive, full-year internship, working in the field alongside a social worker with a master's in social work.

"While the field of sociology focuses on theory, methods and research, social work applies these principles in real-world action," says Associate Professor Sara Smits Keeney of the sociology department. "As long as there are people, there will be social work. Social workers can work within policy, hospice, hospitals, child protection services, and so much more."

The seven senior social work majors are serving a variety of local populations, including the elderly, at-risk youth, incarcerated youth, refugees, and English language learners. Currently completing their year-long practicum are Amber Lemoyne (pictured above, on right, with Bridget Parece-Grogan, MSW), Katherine Sypek, and Candace Andrews.

Lemoyne, double majoring in both sociology and social work, is working at Manchester Memorial High School. With the Student Assistance Program (SAP) coordinator, she facilitates groups for student support, helping students cope with anger, depression, anxiety, grief, and addiction. Joining these groups is completely voluntary, and many students remain in the same support groups throughout high school.

Lemoyne's prior volunteer experiences at the John H. Sununu Youth Services Center and Pine Haven Boys Center prepared her for practicum placement.

"At Pine Haven Boys Center, I ran a group with one of my classmates focused on public achievement," Lemoyne says. "The goal of public achievement groups is to make youth who may think they do not have a voice or that their voices and opinions do not matter, realize that they do matter. That experience prepared me the most for my practicum placement."

Sypek implements her skill-set in the healthcare field, working with the adult and aging at Compassus Hospice and Palliative Care, an organization that helps to make the transition of death more peaceful. Sypek aids the elderly who are declining in health, helping to document their conditions. In declaring social work as her major, Sypek knew she wanted to work in a medical setting, aiding patients with their transitions in and out of the hospital.

"There are a lot of emotions that a person may experience while they are in the hospital," says Sypek, "which is why I want to be the person who is able to talk with them about those emotions, and to help the patients cope with them."

For Sypek, the capstone seminar has enhanced her field experience more than she expected. "What I appreciate the most about our practicum is that we are able to do our own research that connects to the work we are doing every week," she explains. "By doing more research on hospice, I have learned more about how both the patient and the family feel during this time. Majoring in social work gives me the opportunity and the skills to help an individual who is experiencing a difficult time in his or her life."

At Central High School in Manchester, N.H., Andrews works with MyTurn, helping prevent students from dropping-out of high school. She assists MyTurn's director to administer, collaborate, and improve the program for its students. Before her senior year, Andrews worked with youth at Child and Family Services of Manchester, Kate's Team, and John H. Sununu Youth Services Center.

Andrews decided to major in social work and minor in sociology because she knew that she wanted to be an integral and proactive part of her community. "As I took more social work courses along with sociology, I realized that I want to be a high school guidance counselor," Andrews says. "Along with guidance counseling, I plan to be a part of as many resources in my community as possible to create a better environment and future for children."

The social work major has proven successful among its eight recent alumni. Since graduating in 2016, Colin Kiley works as the program coordinator of Boston Scholar Athletes at the Community Academy of Science and Health High School in Dorchester, Mass. Here, Kiley works to reduce the opportunity gap for inner-city students. In addition to coaching intramural sports teams, Kiley hosts study halls for sports teams, holds conferences for progress and report cards, and works with teachers to provide student-athletes with the resources they need to succeed in high school and after graduation.

"The mission and meaning of social work lines up with my philosophy and passions - the power of relationships and human dignity," says Kiley. "My experiences have influenced me to choose a profession that aims to serve and help others."

As Saint Anselm was ranked by the Princeton Review as sixth in the nation for students most engaged in community service, it is no surprise that the social work major would appeal to many Saint Anselm students. In their four years at the college, social work majors serve the Greater Manchester area at many of the college's volunteer center's 50-plus community partnerships through service-learning opportunities and volunteering.

Additionally, social work majors are required to strike a balance of work in the classroom and in the field. Beyond completing service through a course, students take sociology courses in areas such as poverty, public policy, social services, therapeutic interviewing, and human behavior. They are also encouraged to study material from different disciplines, such as psychology, politics, and criminal justice.

Story by Jasmine Blais '17

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