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College of Social Work

BSW Student Named Smith Scholarship Award Winner

Sept. 25, 2019
Chris Woodley • 

The tragic deaths of Michael Daniel Smith, 3, and Alexander Tyler Smith, 14 months, in Union County, South Carolina in 1994 shocked the nation. But thanks to an endowment by Robert L. Thomas, the College of Social Work’s Institute for Families in Society has awarded a scholarship in memory of the brothers each year since 2014.   

This year, junior Bachelor of Social Work student Jaqawnya McElveen from Olanta, South Carolina, was recently selected as the recipient of the 2019 Michael Daniel Smith and Alexander Tyler Smith Scholarship. The $1,500 scholarship is awarded annually to an undergraduate student majoring in social work, public health, nursing or psychology who shows outstanding promise toward becoming a helping professional supporting children and families.

“Even though I had never heard of their story prior to applying, I loved the idea behind the scholarship of remembering the boys and bringing awareness to the fact that things like this do happen,” says McElveen.

Since her junior year of high school, McElveen has volunteered with a young women’s auxiliary at her hometown church, mostly working with a group of children from ages 6 to 12. McElveen organized bonding activities, mentoring and support. This experience has helped her realize her love and passion for working with children.

After graduating from the BSW program, McElveen plans to continue her education by studying for Master of Social Work and doctorate degrees.

“I would still like to work with children and families, but I’m leaning towards counseling because I love hearing about people's experiences and helping them see different ways to get to the place they desire,” says McElveen.

“Jaqawnya has a clear passion and desire to help others, as well as a strong desire to continue her educational path,” says Cheri Shapiro, director of the Institute for Families in Society. “She took time to understand the Smith family story and has a beautiful optimism about changes that she can make.”

A reception for McElveen will be held on Thursday, Oct. 3 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Institute for Families in Society, 1600 Hampton St., Fourth Floor, Conference Room 409.

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