Alumnae Bulletin May 2009

News from The Graduate School of Social Work & Social Research

Message from the Director
It is within the context of a community that students undertaking internships at diverse agency settings learn to integrate their work with individuals, families, groups, and organizations with an understanding of the impact of social, economic, political, geographic, racial/ethnic, and religious imperatives. I invite you to read about the Norristown Initiative described below, which this year provides 12 of our students—recent undergraduates, seasoned professionals, and "career changers"—just such a learning and service opportunity.

—Marcia L.Martin, PhD '82

Norristown and students benefit from partnership

Through Community Partnership in Action (CPIA), a collaborative relationship between Bryn Mawr College and the city of Norristown, both undergraduate and M.S.S. students engage in volunteer programs, Praxis learning and internships. Since the 2005–06 academic year, the School has offered M.S.S. students an enhanced field placement in Norristown, which is located about six miles southwest of Philadelphia and is the county seat of Montgomery County. Norristown has a population of just over 31,000, 54 percent of whom are White and 35 percent of whom are Black. The median income in Norristown is 21 percent below the national average, and 24 percent of children and 14 percent of the elderly live below the federal poverty line. Norristown faces many of the issues confronting Philadelphia's inner-ring suburbs, including a lack of employment that offers a living wage, violence and crime, limited affordable housing, a long waiting list for subsidized child care, and an influx of new immigrants. Norristown provides a sort of laboratory in which students can respond to real needs and address critical problems while simultaneously learning about community-based practice, and honing their skills as clinicians, advocates, planners, and policy analysts.

This year, 12 graduate students are placed in Norristown at seven different agencies. Bertha Staples-Tucker, who majored in urban studies at Rutgers University, is a resident of Norristown and has worked full time at Laurel House, a comprehensive domestic violence agency. She is joined at Laurel House by Kailly Muthard and Erica Laue. Laue is an alumna of McGill University, where she majored in English and women's studies. She is involved in a review of the agency's services for the LGBTQ community and participates in a program that partners with 25 local police departments in responding to domestic violence calls. Muthard, an advanced standing student from Elizabethtown College, works on the hotline and in the women's shelter and is also engaged in outreach to the Latino community.

Nicky Zimmerman, who worked as a program coordinator at a Boys and Girls Club before coming to Bryn Mawr, is placed on the inpatient psychiatric unit at Montgomery Hospital where she is supervised by Elton Richardson, M.S.S. '88. She facilitates groups and works with individuals and families who are dealing with mental health issues as well as employment, housing, and insurance challenges.

John Edwards, an alumnus of Howard University School of Law who served as assistant state's attorney for the Child Protection Division of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office in Illinois before entering our program, is under­taking his internship in the intensive outpatient program at the Central Montgomery Mental Health Mental Retardation Center. He is joined there by Merin Wexler, a former high school English teacher who majored in classics at Harvard University before receiving her master's degree in English Literature at Oxford University. Both Edwards and Wexler work primarily with adults in individual and group counseling.

Katelyn Tuoni is a recent alumna of the University of Delaware, where she undertook internships at Children and Families First and Thurgood Marshall Elementary School. This year she is doing her field placement at The Lincoln Center, a nonprofit organization serving several school districts through alternative education options as well as drug and alcohol prevention services. Tuoni is especially involved with a program funded through the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA).

Jennifer Finore is a graduate of Gwynedd-Mercy College who, before entering our program, worked as the director of social services at Genesis Health Care's Garden Spring Center, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation therapy provider. Her current field placement is at Eagleville Hospital, an organization committed to the treatment, education, and prevention of substance abuse and co-occurring disorders.

The final four students placed in Norristown are at Carson Valley Children's Aid, a private child welfare agency that offers a comprehensive continuum of care to children and families as well as the communities in which they live. Rebecca Lee, Samantha Schech, and Dana Cantelmi are all assigned to the adoption department, where they are supervised by Stacy Triumph, M.S.S./M.L.S.P. '05. They have the opportunity to work with diverse families in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs, assuming responsibility for comprehensive home studies, the matching process, and ongoing evaluations. Lee and Cantelmi graduated from the University of Delaware in 2008 where they had strong internship experiences. Lee was placed at the Herman Rosenblum M.D. Child and Adolescent Center, a psychiatric day treatment hospital for young people, and Cantelmi was placed at the Rockford Center, Delaware's first private psychiatric facility. Before coming to Bryn Mawr, Schech, a 2008 graduate of the University of Maryland, was employed as a mental health worker at Sheppard Pratt Health System, a nonprofit behavioral health organization that provides a full range of services to meet the needs of children, adolescents, adults and older adults.

Jean Lawrence, the fourth student at Carson Valley Children's Aid, is involved in two programs: the Parents as Teachers initiative designed to provide information to parents on child development and better prepare children for kindergarten, and the Truancy Abatement Initiative, which connects families to services aimed at addressing personal issues as well as improving the home-school relationship. Lawrence is another "career changer" who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania as a sociology major and worked in the human resources field for many years.

Our enhanced field placement in Norristown is facilitated by Virginia Kirk, M.S.S. '05, who serves as a liaison for students placed in Norristown and leads monthly seminars which allow these students to share information about their fieldwork, engage in critical dialogue about their experiences, and provide feedback and ideas to the Norristown community of agencies and organizations through the CPIA initiative. Kirk, herself a "career changer" who worked as a journalist for many years, currently serves as a family development specialist and community resource specialist in Norristown through the Norristown Family Center. She has observed that through their association with Norristown, "students are able to put their direct service experiences in perspective when they meet and look beyond their particular agency's agenda, and, most importantly, their increased knowledge from colleagues and from each other makes them better social workers." Bryn Mawr College and Norristown are clearly both beneficiaries of this strong community partnership!

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