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Social Work Club looks to expand outreach

and | Thursday, August 31, 2017

Saint Mary’s Social Work Club may include students from the College, but the group’s mission involves stepping away from campus.

Club president and senior Marilla Opra said the club will provide members with the opportunity to become immersed in the South Bend community.

“Our goal is to promote social work values in the service opportunities that we do both on- and off-campus,” Opra said. “We hope to give people the chance to serve while connecting with social work ethics.”

Students have much to learn from the surrounding area, explained Opra.

“I think it’s good for us to actually be involved and get acclimated to the community around us because the city of South Bend really is an up-and-coming city, and there are so many great organizations to be part of … instead of just focusing on what happens on campus.”

This year, the club will participate in several service projects, such as working with residents of La Casa de Amistad, a local organization that empowers the Latino community through education and childcare in a bilingual atmosphere.

“They’ve also been talking to us about possibly working with them in their English learning program and after school tutoring center,” Opra said. “We’re also working to adopt a family for Christmas.”

This year, the club is changing its focus and making strides to communicate ethics and awareness of social work to other majors too, said club vice president and senior Jessica Ladd. The club’s service aligns with the College’s emphasis on justice, Ladd said.

“President Cervelli’s core value for this year is justice, so … going out into the community and really working at integrating students is perfect to promote the value of justice that she’s focusing on,” Ladd said.

Treasurer and senior Kelly Geelan said the club accomodates a wide range of interests and has a place for everyone.

“We’re kind of restructuring the club, so it can fit all different interests,” she said. “We’re going to have different communities that focus on specific things that we’re addressing in the club and have fundraising committees to work on raising all the money that we donate to the charities we use for our events. Campus outreach, [which] focuses more on things we do on campus like advertising and contacting the Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross communities, and community outreach are the people that will be personally in contact with agencies we want to work with … whatever your interest is, there’s a section for you.”

According to Geelan, social work fosters empathy.

“The people that you’re interacting with most of the time aren’t in the best circumstances or the best time in their lives, but just your presence being there already makes it better,” she said.

Opra said on-campus involvement remains an important component of the club, however.

“On campus, we’re working with BAVO [Belle’s Against Violence Office] to sponsor Green Dot training and with the Student Diversity Board to work on some cultural sensitivity training,” she said.

Ladd said the club allows members to connect with the South Bend community and beyond. She said she hopes the service the club does will initiate the development of an increasingly sensitive and compassionate environment.

“It’s just all about helping people,” Ladd said. “I speak for all of us when I say: ‘you’re always making a difference in someone’s life, and it’s a positive one. You’re always looking for a better outcome, and so even the little things on campus that we’re doing can start here but go much bigger.’ That’s what we’re trying to push.”

Social Work Club’s call meeting will take place Monday September 11 at 6:30 p.m. in 145 Spes Unica Hall.

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About Maria Leontaras

Maria Leontaras is a senior at Saint Mary's pursuing a student-designed major in Interactive Journalism with minors in mathematics and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. Maria used to serve as the Editor-in-Chief of The Observer when she wasn't busy tweeting about movies and One Direction.

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