Students attend Social Work Advocacy Day

CU students pose for a picture in front of the State House at Social Work Advocacy Day.
Photo courtesy of Michael Reeves

On March 28, the National Association of Social Work in Vermont held its annual Social Work Advocacy Day at the Vermont State House and a multitude Castleton University students attended.

They made up a large chunk of the 110 social work students at the event. There were so many students that Rep. Anne Pugh, one of the speakers at the event, said she had never seen so many social work students.

The day included a ton of helpful events for our students to learn and grow, including sitting in on a joint resolution recognizing March as a Social Work month and listening to bills being introduced.

But the day itself began with Pugh, the representative from South Burlington. She and fellow Rep. Brian Cina, from Burlington, are both social workers who are working within Vermont’s government system.

“That was like my favorite part of the day,” said CU student Sara Stearns. “He was so real.”

Both Cina and Pugh discussed how they are using their background as social workers to truly make change on the front lines.

“To teach the importance of politics in Social Work,” said professor and chaperone for the trip, Michael Reeves, when asked why he takes students.

“You can’t complain about our system if you’re not involved in fixing it,” said student Hannah Salmon. Some of the students, including Salmon, left the trip to the capitol feeling invigorated and ready to dive into politics. Others weren’t quite as charmed, motivated sure, but not to be on the front lines.

“You need people on the front line and people on the back line,” said Olivia Conger.

After meeting with the representatives, the students attended a session in the House Chamber, which was opened with a devotional offered by the three NASW VT interns. Included in the opening ceremony was a passage by Audre Lorde, connecting the work of both social workers and legislators alike in today’s current political climate. A speech was then read aloud, recognizing the work of all social workers and recognizing the month of March 2019 as National Social Work Month.

The day continued with more panels and events throughout the evening for the students to go to if they pleased. However, they found the fickle nature of the legislative schedule a bit restraining.

“One I wanted to go into was full, but it was on prison inmates and ID’s,” said Salmon.

The trip also provided the students an opportunity to bond.

“It was definitely a good bonding experience,” said Stearns.

It was rife with fun stories and moments. They jammed to Fergie on the way to and from the venue.

They enjoyed a wonderful array of lunch venues including a steakhouse. And Conger got such bad blisters she had to walk around barefoot in the mall. Luckily her friend Brooke Greenway was there to carry her where she needed to go.

The trip provided a lot to our students. Fun times, knowledge in the field, and a lot of new found motivation.

“When we come across barriers in our fields we now have recourse to overcome them,” said Greenway.

Castleton professor Michael Reeves receives a copy of a social work advocasy month resolution by Vermont Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson.


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