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Currents - March/April 2013 - Membership Associates
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NASW Student Members Are the Future Of Social Work -
Giving Voice To The Needs And Issues Of The Next Generation

 Meira Cohen, NASW-NYC Student Membership Associate; MSW Candidate, Touro College School of Social Work

Editor’s Note: For the second year, the Chapter has enlisted an MSW representative from seven of the schools of social work to aid in strengthening its connection to social work students. This year’s newly-formed team of Student Membership Associates work closely with staff members, Harriet Putterman (who recently retired) and Ammu Kowolik, to increase NASW-NYC’s visibility in the schools, connect with MSW students in a more personal way, and expand efforts to recruit new student members. Below is a piece written in the collective voice of the team of Membership Associates that captures their experiences thus far, including their thoughts on the value of membership in NASW-NYC.

Top row from left: Natalie Bareis, Columbia University School of Social Work; Meira Cohen, Touro College School of Social Work; Andrea Condell, Adelphi University School of Social Work. Bottom row from left: Lizzie Flamm, Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service; Ali Hittman, Yeshiva University Wurzweiler School of Social Work; Titilayo Kuti, New York University Silver School of Social Work. Not pictured: Hadley Fitzgerald, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College

As you read this, social work students across the city are diligently studying and preparing for that final moment when they will walk across the graduation stage and enter the much anticipated and oft-dreaded “real world”: that moment when they will actualize all of the potential that has been cultivated throughout months of supervision, late night hours of paper writing, and a sense of all consuming exhaustion that is borne of tireless efforts for a goal worth attaining. And yet, perhaps we need not wait until we cross the finish line to get in the game.

Joining NASW as a student is a statement of purpose and the joining of a community of professionals who share the unifying goals of empowerment and advocacy. NASW student members are the future of social work and give voice to the needs and issues of the next generation with a fresh energy and a new perspective.

As NASW Membership Associates, we are passionate about recruiting our fellow students to take advantage of all that membership has to offer. Through monthly meetings with our capable and fearless leaders, Harriet Putterman and Ammu Kowolik, we share pizza, laughs, and ideas about spreading the word.

Each of us has contributed in a distinct way to this team effort. Titilayo, of NYU, uses her program development skills to create ways to market to students of various backgrounds. Natalie, from Columbia, brings her innovative social networking ideas and ability to bring people together to ensure her message has far-reaching effects. Ali, of Wurzweiler, has been thinking outside of the box in inviting NASW activists to Wurzweiler to help the students become aware of the many opportunities that members have to develop connections to knowledgeable experts in a variety of fields of practice. Andrea, of Adelphi, ensures that she reaches as many students as possible by involving her fellow students as ambassadors of NASW. Lizzie, of Fordham, has embraced public speaking at various school functions and classes to ensure that fellow students take advantage of membership benefits. Hadley, recently joining us from Hunter, is a welcome addition to the team who will draw on her background in community organization to join in the recruitment efforts. I have fulfilled my role as resident writer, oftentimes drafting and proposing e-blasts and announcements to be shared with faculty and students.

Students often question the benefit of joining NASW. In addition to the tangible benefits that student members can take advantage of, including job search workshops, information on loan forgiveness and licensing, discounted licensing test preparation, and continuing education events, MAs in each school work to communicate to our fellow students the importance of adding their individual voices to the greater thunder of thousands of other social workers across the city and throughout the country.

When we do this, our learning about advocacy is not the theoretical learning of classroom lectures just waiting to be put into practice, but rather becomes a dynamic process in which we advocate for social change by joining as one to become a powerful political force right now. Together, we can successfully lobby for the values we hold dear through advocating for the passage of important legislation that will benefit our clients.

True to the social worker’s creed, self-advocacy is just as important as advocating for our clients. Joining NASW provides access to malpractice insurance, legal aid, and continuing experiences for professional growth and development. Each additional member provides NASW with one more reason that they can successfully lobby for millions in loan forgiveness for social work students.

As social work students anticipate that leap across the divide from student to clinician, intern to employee, observer to practitioner, we come to the inevitable conclusion that the other side of the graduation stage is a potentially solitary sphere. As we prepare to leave the professors and students who walked with us through the journey of our training, we realize that we must begin to build our own surrounding communities. NASW, the largest membership organization of social workers in the country, is the place to start.

As you encourage your clients to advocate for themselves, we encourage you to do the same for yourself. Join the organization that will support you in the important work that you do. Join NASW today.


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