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Speaker encourages careers in social work

Adrienne Ruffner | Monday, April 24, 2006

Over two dozen students and faculty members gathered in 119 O’Shaughnessy Hall where co-founder and executive director of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) Madeline Janis-Aparicio spoke about the variety of career options within the field of social work.

Janis-Aparicio rallied for six years to pass the Los Angeles living wage ordinance prior to co-founding LAANE, a social justice agency in Southern California.

“In the face of globalization, in the increasingly faceless world of capital, how can we make the world a better place,” Janis Aparicio said. “Oftentimes poor people are hidden.”

Janis-Aparicio encouraged the crowd to consider a career in social work through the retelling of her own experiences in the field.

Social justice careers have many forms from community and union organization to research and legislative advocacy – all involving business skills aimed at reducing poverty instead of turning a profit.

“Each of these is a profession in a new kind of way,” said Janis-Aparicio.

She said LAANE is an innovative agency because it incorporates a variety of professions, rather than tailoring its work to one specific arena. The agency works to ensure that all workers in Los Angeles County labor for a living wage and have necessary union protection.

“Not only is poverty immoral, but is pulls us all down,” she said. “You can’t have prosperity amidst so much suffering. It’s not possible, and it doesn’t work.”

After graduating from law school, Janis-Aparicio said began her career helping low-income tenants who had been cheated by their landlords – a rewarding yet limiting job, she said.

To overcome her career restrictions she said she decided to devote her career to public service by starting LAANE 13 years ago.

“Non-profits are the vehicles we have in the U.S. to do social justice,” she said.

While a career in public service may not be lucrative, Janis-Aparicio said the rewards of social justice extend beyond money and fame.

“You gain a sense of ‘this is what I need to be happy, and I don’t need a whole lot,'” she said.