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Celebrating Emerging Social Work Leaders
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Celebrating Emerging Social Work Leaders

Emmanuel Register, NASW-NYC MSW Intern, Columbia University School of Social Work

February/March 2008

NASW-NYC celebrated eight of social work’s finest young professionals at the “Emerging Social Work Leaders Awards Dinner” on November 29, 2007. Fifty percent of social workers that hold executive titles in human service agencies are expected to retire within the next several years. This event stemmed from an initiative developed in the Chapter to address the anticipated dramatic turnover of social work leaders. The NYC Chapter honored emerging social work leaders who were nominated by current leaders in the field and selected through a competitive review process. Special awards were presented based on demonstrating exemplary leadership and a unique commitment to improving human conditions.

Dominick Carter, NY1’s Senior Political Reporter and Host of “Inside City Hall,” served as the evening’s MC and shared details of his personal life experience with the audience. He revealed, after so many years of success in television newscast, why he has gratitude for social workers. He discussed how he grew up battling child abuse, chronic mental illness, poverty, and neglect but would still rise to become a successful T.V. personality thanks to the social workers who stepped into his life. Mr. Carter filled the room with a heartened account of his youth and shared, “There is no place I’d rather be than in a room filled with social workers. If folks like you hadn’t stepped in, there would be no Dominick Carter.” Mr. Carter greeted guests throughout the evening and offered copies of his published autobiography, “No Momma’s Boy: A Memoir,” which addresses the barriers of his life and path to success.

Dr. Robert Schachter, NASW-NYC Executive Director, shared brief remarks and appreciation for Dominick Carter’s experiences stating that one of the reasons people become social workers is because of their life stories.

Although this event was designed to recognize a limited number of emerging leaders, Dr. Schachter made it apparent to the audience that every social worker is inherently a leader by virtue of the client population and environments they are working with. He also recognized the need for new and young professionals to be brought up in their ranks and further acknowledged the New Professionals Task Force and the Chapter’s continuing efforts to support them in reaching this goal.

Dennis M. Walcott, MSW, Deputy Mayor of New York for Education and Community Development, shared a word of advice and encouragement. “Its easy to lose focus,” stated Mr. Walcott, “Your supervisor gets on your nerves, your budget is cut,” but social workers have a talent that can be used with such versatility in any setting to address and solve any situation. Mr. Walcott stated that he maintains a balance in his life by being a “social worker first.” He explained that the tool social workers develop is the inherent ability to assess a situation, provide a strategy, analyze whether the strategy is working, and provide an alternate strategy in the event the initial strategy failed. Regardless of where you work, he said, “You have to apply this social work technique.” He also said, “We have a responsibility to support, guide and help social workers to grow. Always reach back to make sure you bring those young social workers along to be in a better position and provide support to help them become a productive leader for the future.”

Among those nominated and honored with an Emerging Leaders Award for outstanding leadership abilities in the social work profession are Isabel Ching, Willing Irene Chin-Ma, Jamie Favaro, Aminda Jacobs, Raysa Rodriguez, Stella Pappas, Kimberly Steinhagen, and Lisa White.

Isabel Ching, LMSW, Assistant Executive Director for Senior Services at Hamilton-Madison House, manages an expanding elderly client service agency. The senior service division has developed considerably over the past 10 years with her active leadership. Ms. Ching is serving as an active member of the Action Committee of the Council of Senior Center Services, Co-Chair Elect of CSCS’ 2008 conference, Asian American Federation of New York, and founding member of the Asian American Geriatric Mental Health Alliance where she has a working initiative to direct an increasing number of Asian Americans into the field of social work.

Willing Chin-Ma, Assistant Executive Director of Grand Street Settlement, Inc., has earned herself a solid foundation with studies in Sociology and Counseling from CUNY and a Masters in Social Work from NYU. As Director of Operations in 1998, she developed a growing and valued intern unit, and by 2004 was promoted to Assistant Executive Director of the agency. She exemplifies leadership in her abilities to keep up with the frequent changing environment. Ms. Chin-Ma also works as field placement lecturers for both NYU Silver School of Social Work and Columbia University.

Jamie Favaro, LMSW, Founder & Executive Director of Washington Heights CORNER Project, Inc. is a graduate from Columbia University School of Social Work who served as student chair of the LGTBQ Caucus and member of the Diversity Caucus. Working as the Assistant Program Director for George Washington Bridge Outreach Program, she began to target the issue of drug abuse and health risks amongst homeless clients. On her own time, she began outreach and work with the Harm Reduction Coalition which would serve as a vehicle to gaining community and government support in establishing a non-profit community organization, CORNER (Community Outreach, Resources, Needle Exchange and (H)arm Reduction) Project. CORNER is the first licensed needle exchange program in Washington Heights and the only organization north of Harlem designed to address specifically drug user health.

Aminda Jacobs, LCSW, Transplant Social Worker at The Rogosin Institute New York Presbyterian Hospital- Weill Medical College of Cornell University, has been serving on the NASW-NYC Board of Directors since 2003 as well as the Executive Committee for the past two years. Ms. Jacobs is a member of the Delegate Assembly, Chair of the Membership Committee, and co-founder of the NYC Chapter’s New Professionals Task Force, whereby she has encouraged board leaders to accept the New Professionals Task Force as a major Chapter initiative. Ms. Jacobs also serves on NASW’s Asian Social Work Task Force where she has developed programs for Asian American students, and she is Chair of the Advocacy Committee for the Korean American Behavioral Health Association.

Raysa S. Rodriguez, MSW, Senior Advisor on Children’s Issues, Office of the Mayor, City of New York, has a BS in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University and a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University School of Social Work. Ms. Rodriguez has implemented community and organizational change on a macro level while working collectively with Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Linda Gibbs, and Family Services Coordinator of the City of New York, Jennifer Jones Austin. With a history of child advocacy and directing education, Ms. Rodriguez has moved children’s issues forward by strengthening the City of New York’s policies on early care and education agenda.

Stella V. Pappas, LCSW-R, ACSW, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Institute for Community Living, Inc., holding a BA in psychology, Masters, and certification for Advanced Clinical Social Work from NYU, began working at ICL, an outpatient mental health clinic, in 2000 as the Director of the Guidance Center. In 2001 she became Vice President of the new Child and Family Services Division at ICL where she ran programs to service the Brooklyn and Manhattan communities after 9/11.

From 2002-2005, Ms. Pappas served as the Sr. Vice President. She has dedicated more than 18 years of her professional life to serving children and families suffering from emotional, cognitive and psychiatric disabilities.

Kimberly A. Steinhagen, LMSW, Director of Geriatric Mental Health Alliance of New York, actively participated in the development of this alliance in 2004, which has since grown to an advocacy and education organization staffing over 2,800 members. Ms. Steinhagen serves as leader of Next Wave; a group of human services professionals in the field of aging and also serves on the board for One Stop Senior Services.

She is a member to other organizations including the NYC Adult Protective Services Advisory Council, the Community Advisory Committee of the Cornell Institute for Translational Research in Aging (CITRA), and the NY Southern Area Aging Network (NY-SAAN).

Ms. Steinhagen continues to report findings to constituencies, advocate and co-author reports on issues in Geriatric Mental Health. Ms. Steinhagen received her MSW from Columbia University School of Social Work.

Lisa White, LMSW, Program Director of South Bronx Healthy Families Bronx Lebanon Hospital; Psychotherapist Northside Center for Child Development, has dedicated 18 years of her career to promoting the well-being, self-determination and strength of vulnerable children and their families in New York City. An MSW student from Columbia University School of Social Work and with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Hampton University, she now directs the Healthy Families program, which supports and educates families who are expecting and/ or parenting families.

Ms. White is also a clinician at Northside Center for Child Development, an adjunct professor at Mercy College and, also, works for various organizations as a private consultant. Her displays of leadership include spearheading the Bronx Multidisciplinary Team on Child Abuse for the Bronx District Attorney’s Office and being elected by New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to serve as her appointee to the Child Fatality Review Team. In addition, Ms. White is often selected to present materials at various conferences and teleconferences related to her expertise.


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