To inform, to learn and to volunteer — those are the goals of Saint Mary’s Social Work Week. This week, the Social Work Department will highlight its diverse field of study with various events held each day, including a speech today by Laura Recio, a registered play therapist supervisor of Counseling Solution in Spes Unica at 9:30 a.m. The importance of social work week has its grounding in teaching students about what they can achieve with a social work degree. “Students learn that they can work in diverse settings, including hospitals, medical centers, schools, congressional offices, mental health centers, colleges and businesses,” Dr. Frances Kominkiewicz, director of the Social Work program, said. However, the week benefits all students, not just Social Work majors. “Social work is essential in the way we live our lives today. Typically people link social workers to Child Protective Services and Welfare offices, but social workers are everywhere, and their positions can be found under almost every career heading,” Alma Bravo, a junior Social Work major, said, Wednesday, students can learn how to de-stress with a lesson in origami art in the Saint Mary’s Student Center atrium from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. On Thursday, Becky Ruvalcaba, the executive director of South Bend’s LaCasa de Amistad will speak from noon to 1 p.m. in the West Wing of the Noble Family Dining Hall. According to Kominkiewicz, LaCasa de Amistad is a non-profit organization that provides services to the Hispanic community. Friday wraps up the week with a breakfast outside of the Social Work suite on the second floor of Spes Unica from 9:30 to 11 a.m., and a speech on Gerontology by Andrea Verteramo in conference rooms A and B of the Noble Family Dining Hall at noon, Kominkiewicz said. According to Leonard Sanchez, professor of Specialist and Social Work, the events have something for everyone. “There’s a social worker in everybody,” Sanchez said. “Human relations, integrity, competence — it’s what our department is about, but it goes beyond that. We show how to give to each other and the community.” Sanchez said the week is being held to encourage people to take action within the little time they have at Saint Mary’s. “Four years may seem like a long time to the students, but it flies,” Sanchez said. “We teach that everyone can make a difference in the world, even if only a small difference. We aren’t trying to change the world all at once — just our little piece of South Bend.” Sanchez said he hopes to show students they can make a difference, and that their “presence counts.” “People want to do something, they just don’t know how. Social work week bridges that impossible gap,” Sanchez said. Kominkiewicz said the importance of the event is for all students, but for the first years especially. “First-year students find that they learn a great deal about Social Work as a major and as a profession. Feedback indicates that social work week was most helpful to them in deciding to become a social work major,” Kominkiewicz said. All students are encouraged to attend the week’s events in an effort “to make Saint Mary’s stronger in the community,” Sanchez said. “It’s the little things you do for others that moves mountains.”
Saint Mary’s College hosted the Peace Project Contest as the final installment in a series of events held this week in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Students submitted poems, artwork and speeches dedicated to the messages left by the Civil Rights leader. Tamara Taylor, assistant director of Student Involvement and Multicultural Services, said the project was a way for students to use their creativity to celebrate the life of Dr. King and his dream for peace. “Traditionally, ‘Celebrate Martin Luther King’ has only been one day and it has traditionally been the day we get back,” she said. “It has gotten lost in the shuffle, so we decided, ‘Why not do a week?’” Jacquitta Martin, president of the Sisters of Nefertiti, said the sisters helped plan and execute the event. “This contest started out as an oratorical contest. Then sisters asked why limit to just speech when we can open it up to allow students to be more creative,” she said. The 10 entries in the contest ranged from original poetry to a short film. Junior Elizabeth Elsbach won the top prize, a spa package from J. Ross Salon and Spa, for her poem. “I decided to write a poem because when you are expressing something as intangible as peace, you have to use something intangible like poetry to reach out and stir up the desire to reach a common goal,” she said. First year Asha Gilmore took second prize with her original film. The film originally began as a project for a social work class, she said. “It was a project where we compared and contrasted three different writers: Sister Madaleva, Mary Jane Adams and Martin Luther King, Jr.,” she said. “I decided I wanted to use song and intensity in the animations to make the project more memorable.” Junior Lizzy Schroff finished in third place for her poem. “I write a lot of poetry, and I like poetry because I like to express things through a new perspective and grab people’s attention with vivid imagery, and [allow them] to see things in a new light,” she said. Vice President of Student Affairs Karen Johnson served on a panel of judges and helped choose the winner of the contest. “I was amazed by how excellent everything was, and it should be shared with the community,” she said. Elaine Meyer-Lee, the director of the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership, also served as a judge. “I think it is really great that so many students came out and created something with so much substance,” she said. “It was a meaningful event that is worthy of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.”
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