Social workers regularly work to ensure all individuals have access and opportunities to meet basic needs. They often advocate to local, state and national government officials and agencies to influence policy that leads to change. Three Bachelor of Social Work students recently had the opportunity to participate in statewide legislative advocacy efforts.
Juniors Carolina Escobedo-Ramirez and Evelyn Morgan and freshman Anna Williams participated in the National Association of Social Workers, South Carolina Chapter’s Virtual Student Legislative Day on March 31. The event brought together students and advocates to discuss key legislative and social justice issues. The session included panels, discussions, and the opportunity to meet legislators.
After the event began with a discussion on advocacy, the first panel focused on social justice with City of Columbia Deputy Police Chief Melron Kelly. Escobedo-Ramirez was one of the panelists.
“The biggest takeaway for me was being able to witness just how strong the community of social workers is in South Carolina,” Escobedo-Ramirez says. “We only interact with our cohort and professors in school, but it’s rare to see a coalition of social workers working together for the same cause. It’s nice to see that we’re not alone and all fighting the same fight.”
BSW Program Coordinator and Clinical Assistant Professor Sudie Nallo moderated a panel session on health disparities. The panel included Williams and Ana Lopez-De Fede, research professor and associate director of the college’s Institute for Families in Society. Nallo believes that students will take what they learned and feel empowered and supported to be involved with legislative efforts to improve outcomes for current and future social work clients.
“I was very impressed by our students' level of engagement throughout the planning process; particularly their selection of policy and advocacy topics that resonated with them,” Nallo says. “The research conducted on community impacts as they relate to systemic challenges and how policy can address disparity was also impressive.”
Senior Clinical Instructor Mike Ottone also served as a panelist for the final session, “I’m About to Graduate. What’s Next?”
“It was great to see so many students. As many as 80 were active in the sessions as participants and several were presenters,” Ottone says. “During my panel presentation specifically, students were attentive and asked relevant and important questions.”
Escobedo-Ramirez said she was inspired to see people care about social justice issues, which makes it more encouraging to continue the fight. Nallo also believes that this event will motivate students to advocate more for clients, constituents and the social work profession.
“I think students will invite others to become more involved, and events like NASW-SC Student Legislative Day provides participants an outlet, platform and space to develop experience around the legislative process and build technical skillsets for successful engagement with officials.”