By Laura Fitzgerald, Senior Staff Writer

Students studying social work are hosting a week packed with events to educate the public about social work, make a difference in local communities and advocate for various causes.

All the events, from the creation of ideas to the implementation of each event, are set up and run by students in a Family Studies and Social Work class, taught by instructor Terri Spahr Nelson. This is the third year Nelson has had her students host this event.

Nelson said the project is part of what is called transformational learning, or learning by doing. The students in her class are learning how to work together in groups — called task forces — and how to organize and implement large educational events for the public.

“I want them to be transformed by this experience and to learn more about grassroots social work,” Nelson said.

One of the events is a job fair that is open to all majors, since many non-profit companies may be looking for students who don’t have a background in social work, Nelson said. Students may also find volunteer and internship opportunities.

Another event during the week is a school supply drive for underprivileged Talawanda School District students. The supplies and money donated go to the Talawanda Student Care Fund, which provides school supplies and assistance in sports fees to low-income Talawanda students.

Senior Kaitlin Koogle is on the committee for the Talawanda Student Care Fund. She said many Miami students don’t realize that some families in Oxford may be struggling financially.

“As students we fail to realize how much people around us are struggling because it’s hard to think that somebody can’t afford a backpack when we’re able to go to a very expensive college,” Koogle said.

Students will also be collecting donations for the people of Flint, Michigan -— the community that experienced devastating health effects after the city switched its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River, known for high iron and corrosivity levels. Lead from service lines leached into the water, poisoning water to Flint homes.

Junior Tiffany Holmes is on the committee for Flint. She said students will collect donations to purchase clean water and water purifiers. Students can also sign a petition to bring more federal aid to Flint.

Holmes said her committee chose Flint as a cause to support because it was a community that experienced injustice for several years.

“We wanted the people of Flint, Michigan, to know that we in Oxford are fighting for them and with them,” Holmes said.

Junior Diane Lockard publicizes Social Work Week. She said the events throughout the week are also an opportunity for the community and Miami students to learn more about social work. Social workers work with all ages of people in a variety of settings, and this week is an opportunity for students to learn about the diversity of employment that the field offers.

Lockard says she enjoys being able to make a difference in the community and other people’s lives through social work.

“It really just helps me feel like a better human being knowing that I can offer somebody assistance with any problem that they might have,” Lockard said.

Social work is a growing field. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the field is expected to grow by 12 percent through 2024. Meanwhile, the national average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Nelson says social work is growing for several reasons, partly because the Affordable Care Act expanded health care and the need for health care workers. There is also a growing elderly population that needs care and there has been an increase in private practice mental health facilities.

Social Work Week kicked off Monday with education on social work at Oxford, Hamilton and Middletown. Tomorrow, there is a job and internship expo from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Marcum Conference Center in Oxford.

There are donation drives for the Talawanda Student Care Fund, the Center for Respite Care and the Oxford Choice Community Pantry in Oxford, Hamilton and Middletown on Thursday. On Friday, there is an advocacy presentation for Flint and a Local Human Trafficking presentation at noon, both in McGuffey Hall in Oxford. The week ends Saturday with the Ohio National Association of Social Workers conference.

Information about the events can also be found on Facebook at Miami University Social Work Week.

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