“Social Workers, We Have Challenges”
In His Keynote Address, Dr. William L. Pollard Encourages Social Workers to Be Proactive
Annual Meeting 2010
NASW-NYC held its 55th Annual Meeting on May 13, 2010. It was an inspiring gathering that engaged members and their guests to reflect upon the history of the profession and how social work must evolve to meet the needs of New Yorkers, both in the present and in years to come. Organized around the theme of “Social Workers as First Responders to Human Need,” speakers celebrated the strengths of social work practice to address the challenges faced by individuals, families, and communities in times of hardship. The immediacy of human need within the context of recent world events, such as natural disasters and the economic downturn, the battle over healthcare reform and the current challenges imposed upon immigrants, demonstrate that the social work perspective is needed—now more than ever.
Nancy Miller, Chair of the Annual Meeting Planning Committee, introduced featured keynote speaker, Dr. William L. Pollard, President of Medgar Evers College, CUNY.
Dr. Pollard shared his compelling story to emphasize the significance of the evening’s event within the context of the broader need for continued social work action to address discrimination and inequalities. Dr. Pollard engaged attendees with his enthusiasm and insight and asked the audience to wander with him, to reflect upon his own development as a person and a professional with a social work background. He described life in the segregated South, life divided by water fountains and lunch counters, and how he began to emerge as a social work leader and community organizer in the summer of 1965—how he started to become the social work leader he is now.
Through his experiences challenging the power structure to increase opportunities for African Americans, increase opportunities for the voiceless, he found his success through “people and processes.” Dr. Pollard underscored the importance of gratitude, the necessity to recognize those who have “brought you along the way.” His story, and reminder to be thankful to those who have built the paths, brought a palpable moment of recognition within the crowd and highlighted for the listener the need for continued action.
“Life has been good because of people and processes,” reflected Dr. Pollard. “I have watched this country change in many, many different ways since 1969; and in that period of time the world transformed around me—and around you as well. Yet despite all these movements, our nation is still plagued by racism and disparities, access to education, child welfare inequalities, discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation.” It is in that vein that Dr. Pollard reminded the audience of the necessity for social workers to be involved, be concerned, and ask the questions that bring about change.
Dr. Pollard spoke about his training as a social worker, and noted that it is social work that is responsible for the way he thinks and the way he behaves. He left the audience with a gift: the story of an elderly woman who bestowed upon Booker T. Washington all that she had to help build Tuskegee University. She gave six eggs: The egg of the meddler, the egg of involvement, the egg of remembrance, the egg of leadership, the egg of vision, and the egg of pride. Among these gifts are the essential skills and values social workers can draw upon as they face the challenges at the forefront of the profession.
Executive Director’s Report
Dr. Schachter’s speech, building upon the theme of Dr. Pollard’s stirring words, briefly reported on the ways the social work profession is evolving and striving to stay relevant. He called upon attendees to be of the mind for change, to take responsibility for the ways issues are addressed within the community. In that spirit, Dr. Schachter introduced Margery Freeman and David Billings, core trainers for The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. Ms. Freeman and Reverend Billings are part of the leadership of the anti-racist movement in the New York City area, which has trained 3,000 social workers and other human service professionals in anti-racist practice. “As social workers,” Dr. Schachter said, “that training has inspired us and helped us understand how to induce change in the profession and in the human services community.” He underscored how much New York City has changed demographically since he entered the field 30 years ago.
Chapter Service Award
Dr. Martha Adams Sullivan was presented with the Chapter Service Award in thanks for the quality of leadership and strength of mind she has brought the city and the NASW Board of Directors in understanding and anticipating the complex issues communities face. “When Martha speaks, everyone listens,” said Dr. Schachter. “Her clearness of thinking, her way of framing issues, has guided NASW and will continue to do so for many years to come.” Dr. Sullivan is the Executive Director of Fordham-Tremont Community Mental Health Center, and has an extensive background that includes key positions in government, city agencies, and the voluntary sector. Yet, regardless of the richness of her accomplishments, Dr. Sullivan spoke of being, “immensely proud and blessed to be called to such a noble profession and being surrounded by people committed to serving others.” She implored NASW members to be involved, to be passionate about their work, and create committees and resources where they are needed.
Lifetime Achievement Award
The NASW-NYC Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Patricia J. Volland, MSW, MBA, for her 40 year career in pursuit of excellence in the social work profession. Introduced as “one of the most effective and intelligent social workers in the United States,” Ms. Volland is the Senior Vice President for Strategy and Business Development at the New York Academy of Medicine. Ms. Volland is leading national education, policy, and research efforts to advance society’s ability to support and care for older adults; her model of care has been adopted by 75 graduate schools of social work in 35 states. Ms. Volland discussed the need for social workers to be leaders in their communities and to “look for opportunities to change how people can access social services.”
2010 Social Work Image Awards
Dr. Megan McLaughlin, First Vice President of the NASW-NYC Board of Directors, presented three Social Work Image Awards to social workers who exemplify outstanding practice, knowledge, and service. Amy Ellenbogen received the award for community organizing for her work at the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center/Center for Court Innovation. Ms. Ellenbogen has been the Project Director of the center since 2002 and has introduced a broad array of services and community-building programs to Crown Heights. Juan David Gastolomendo is the Program Director of Para Ayudar at the Latino Commission on AIDS—a program, which he designed and implemented. He received the award for his direct practice. Marlene Rodriguez received the award for social work administration for her clinical supervision at the Puerto Rican Family Institute. In addition to her work at PRFI, Ms. Rodriguez taught in her native Columbia and has been a member of a research team. (Please visit our website for additional information about the award winners.)
Student Award Recipients
NASW Student Awards were announced by NASW-NYC Board member Kalima DeSuze, which were awarded to eleven second year MSW students from the local schools in recognition of their leadership. (For a full list of names, please visit our website. The Georgia McMurray Award was presented to Sylvia Hooper from Touro College Graduate School of Social Work for her extraordinary work in children and family services. NASW-NYC PACE Scholarships were presented by Mary Harrington, NASW-NYC PACE co-chair, to Zeeshan Ott from Columbia University School of Social Work and Jason Siegel, New York University Silver School of Social Work.
As the evening unfolded, and award winners recognized, the attendees gathered for a reception and night of music. Many spoke of the hope and pride found within the profession, others connected through their shared values and best practices. The meeting brought about a rekindling of purpose, a reminder of the strength and joy—and history—found in being a part of the social work community.