A New Generation of Social Workers
Celebrating The Commitment, Talent, and Motivation of Emerging Leaders
Peter Beitchman, DSW, LMSW, Executive Director, The Bridge, Inc.; Chair, NASW-NYC Fundraising Committee
It is hard to imagine a more meaningful and enjoyable event than the Chapter’s Second Annual Awards Dinner Celebrating Emerging Social Work Leaders, held on December 4th at the Grand Harmony Restaurant. The event attracted more than three hundred social work colleagues, recognizing the accomplishments of some remarkable young professionals. The gathering was also a smashing social success – lifting up and rejoicing in our profession. It was an unbelievable site from the podium: a sea of old timers, mid-career folks and newer professionals from all sectors including academia, public agencies, private practice and the non-profit sector. Spirits were high and so was the noise level! This annual event has clearly become the focal point of social work celebration.
As for the evening’s twelve honorees, all under forty years of age, they share the quality of having gone beyond merely providing excellent service on the job to creating innovative initiatives of their own. Suffice it to say that they demonstrate the kind of commitment, talent and motivation so representative of the new generation of social workers that will assure that our profession continues to thrive.
In addition to being a great opportunity to honor the social work profession and to pay tribute to some of our emerging leaders, the Dinner serves as a major fundraiser to assure that the Chapter can continue its activities on many important fronts. At a time when government at all levels is experiencing unprecedented financial hardship, our profession and the clients we serve are more vulnerable than ever to severe funding reductions. The more than $33,000 raised at the Dinner will assure that the Chapter has a strong voice in Albany and at City Hall to protect critical social work services. Dinner proceeds will also enable us to continue advocating for social work education loan forgiveness, fixing the social work licensing law so that it is fair and responsive to the profession, promoting culturally competent services and anti-racist practices, and making the case for increased social work salaries.
A highlight of the evening was remarks by New York State Senator Diane Savino, a lead sponsor of legislation that secured the doubling of the Social Worker Loan Forgiveness Program from $1 million to $2 million. Senator Savino shared her own personal journey – striving to improve the lives of working people and the poor. She worked in the human service sector as a caseworker for the City’s Child Welfare Administration, and as an organizer for DC 37, the Social Service Employees Union, both of which led to her interest in running for elected office. In these roles, she worked closely with professional social workers and came to esteem the profession. Her advocacy for loan forgiveness is a reflection of that admiration.
Remarks by Pat Brownell, President of the Chapter, and Bob Schachter, its Executive Director, caught the spirit of the evening as well. Pat expressed the awe that we all feel for the accomplishments of our honorees and Bob articulated the tremendous hope that the new administration in Washington will be transformative in focusing on social and human needs, and in recognizing the special role of the social work profession to address them.
The evening’s upbeat mood was also nurtured by Gary Parker, our social work toastmaster, who contributed wittily to the lively atmosphere. Gary, a graduate of Hunter College School of Social Work, is currently Director of Government and Community Affairs for New York University. He was a wonderful emcee - keeping the festivities going with a good-natured patter of social work humor. Ammu Prashantini of the Chapter’s staff also deserves special recognition for her efforts in planning and executing such a special evening.
This was clearly a marvelous event. On behalf of the Event Planning Committee and the Fundraising Committee, which I am honored to chair, thanks to all of you who participated. We look forward eagerly to the Third Annual Awards Dinner next November.