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Tapestry - Fall 2005

Social Work Interns link with community organizations

Capuchin Services Center: Site Supervisor Denise Johnson ’92, left, and UDM student Patrice Hornbuckle.

“Social work is alive and well,” says Aloha VanCamp, Ph.D., associate professor and co-chair of University of Detroit Mercy's Department of Social Work. “Our internship program is proof.” In addition to teaching research methods, VanCamp directs the undergraduate field internship program for UDM.

“As an urban university, it’s vital that we partner with area agencies, which are integral to the community as well as the University,” she says. “Through these internships, young people are getting actual experience in the trenches and, consequently, both sides are benefiting from hands-on work and mentoring opportunities.”

According to VanCamp, all internships are meant to reflect the program’s core values, which include service, social justice and competence. The UDM social work field internship takes place during the student’s final year, and seniors are required to spend 16 hours per week for two semesters at a human service agency where they are supervised by a social worker.

One such vital community agency is the Capuchin Services Center, located on Detroit’s east side. According to Denise Johnson ’92, site supervisor at Capuchin, (and UDM alumnus), “We adapt our services to the needs of our clients, whether chronic or temporary. These individuals typically lack the means to overcome problems such as mental illness, substance abuse, physical disabilities, emotional instability, and limited education and self-esteem.” Roughly 200 families daily from across the metropolitan area visit the center with emergency needs. As with all other Capuchin programs and services, there is no cost to clients.

UDM senior Patrice Hornbuckle, who interns for Capuchin Services, says that her work as an emergency assistant worker has provided her with hands-on outreach work. She meets with clients daily, assesses their needs and develops strategies to assist them. “I like the fact that I see all types of people from all ranges of incomes and attitudes, and it’s rewarding to help them,” Hornbuckle says. In addition, Hornbuckle says that the staff of the Center is team-oriented, and their ready interaction with her has added to the learning process. “Everyone is there to solve a problem. It’s been an eye-opener,” Hornbuckle adds.

Webster Elementary School: UDM student Mead Goedert (standing) with Social Work Director Cynthia Williams and School Principal Cruz.

Webster Elementary School, located in southwest Detroit, is another internship location. Cynthia Williams, a social work project director at Webster, says the school’s student body is very diverse, and is comprised of numerous socio-ethnic groups. Many of the students are at-risk, and Williams works with a team of social workers to help parents with homework, conflict resolution, and housing issues. “We are flexible," Williams explains. “We offer a variety of needs and services depending on the families’ needs.”

Mead Goedert, a UDM senior from Omaha, Nebraska interns at Webster, working primarily with pre-kindergarten students as well as some second graders. He focuses on behavior modification while dealing with problematic and easily distracted children. "One strategy that works well with these children is modeling behavior," he says. “For example, if they’re writing a spelling list, I do it, too. If they work math problems, so do I. By showing them the correct way to behave themselves, they will ultimately be mainstreamed” into a traditional classroom environment. While Goedert is from Nebraska, he would like to settle in Detroit and pursue a child-based social work career. “I've learned so much at Webster, and I love the people here.” he says, “I feel like I'm really making a difference."

UDM student Shanise Simpson (right) with her supervisor Julie Boggs.

The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office also provide internship opportunities for UDM students. Julie Boggs is the director of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Victim Services Unit in the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in downtown Detroit.

“We work out of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, which assists victims at 36th District Court, all out-Wayne County district courts, and Circuit Court, says Boggs. “Shanise Simpson, our intern, shadows a Victim Advocate that assists victims of crime through the criminal justice process.”

Advocates such as Simpson follow a case from the time a warrant is signed. Simpson says of her work, “It’s new every day. My job often involves more than 16 hours per week, because I work with young people between the ages of 15 and 17. I act as their liaison, explaining and interpreting the legal system for them and making sure they understand their involvement.” Though the work is often difficult, Simpson is pleased with her placement. “This has been a good spot for me,” she says. “I'd like to continue to work within the court system.”

Both interns and directors point to the validity and effectiveness of the senior field internship. “It’s how they integrate what they’ve learned in the classroom, " says VanCamp. “These relationships are truly beneficial to everyone."