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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Students Experience Nicaragua, International Social Work en vivo!

International Social Work is a subject that cannot be explained by reading a book or listening to a lecture; it is an area one must experience en vivo! This summer, Sadie Ferguson and Corrie van Amerongen, both second-year MSW students, had the incredible opportunity of experiencing international social work in Nicaragua. For one month, the students learned about the tumultuous history of Central America’s poorest country and witnessed the social movements of the ruling Sandinista party. 

Stationed in the nation’s colonial capitol of León, Sadie and Corrie got to know the historic city, as well as the national university, Universidad Nacional Auntónoma de Nicaragua (UNAN) -León. With the help of UNAN’s social work department, the students were fortunate enough to visit various social work agencies throughout the region.

“Learning about the presence of social services in other countries where they may have less resources, but more community support in the case of Nicaragua, was the most interesting part for me,” said van Amerongen. “The struggle for social work practitioners was capitalizing on that community support in order to make bigger changes.”

Ferguson and van Amerongen also sat in on social work classes in Spanish, visited a state-run outreach center for women and children suffering from domestic violence, led a presentation on grants for a university level social work class, and conducted interviews on social work in Nicaragua with faculty members.  During their time in Leon, the two students lived with host families, which provided them with an invaluable cultural perspective and daily language practice.

“Living with a large family of about 12 people definitely gave me the opportunity to improve my Spanish and allowed me to gain confidence with the language during interviews in the field,” said Ferguson.  “Also, there really is no better way to learn about a culture than to live the culture.  Our host-family experiences definitely helped us to live the “Nica” culture!”

Ferguson and van Amerongen also had the chance to visit many other interesting places within Nicaragua, one being a city to the North of León called El Sauce. During this visit, the two were also supporting Dr. Olate’s research about risk behaviors and resilience. They conducted interviews with local school directors and school counselors to get their perspective on risk-factors in school-aged children. Currently El Sauce’s Ministry of Education is working to develop a plan to retain more students through middle and high school and thus the topic was a concern for all of the schools in the area.

During the final days of the trip, Ferguson and van Amerongen  were invited to attend the First Annual International Congress on Social Work.  Dean Gregoire represented Ohio State’s College of Social Work and spoke about potential partnerships between OSU and UNAN-León.  Olate gave a presentation entitled “Research and Social Interventions for at-risk Adolescents.”  The congress at the end of the trip was an ideal way to reflect on the month’s experiences and learn more about progressive changes within the context of social work in Nicaragua.



— Story submitted by Sadie Ferguson and Corrie van Amerongen

LiFE Sports Wins 2012 Excellence in Summer Learning Award

The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) has chosen LiFE Sports, a collaboration of Ohio State’s Department of Athletics, College of Social Work, and Department of Recreational Sports, as a recipient of the 2012 Excellence in Summer Learning Award.

This annual award recognizes summer programs demonstrating excellence in accelerating academic achievement and promoting healthy development for low-income young people, as measured by NSLA’s Comprehensive Assessment of Summer Programs. Winning programs also demonstrate exemplary practices in overall programming, including supporting staff, schools, and other program partners in fulfilling shared goals. Three programs were chosen from among more than 50 applicants for the 2012 award including United Way of Santa Barbara County’s Fun in the Sun Initiative and GO Project of New York City as recipients of the 2012 Excellence in Summer Learning Awards.

The free LiFE Sports Camp serves 600 Columbus, Ohio, youth ages 9-15 for four weeks each summer, focusing on teaching participants vital life skills and social competence through sports. The program is built upon a community outreach program operating at OSU for the past 40 years, the National Youth Sport Program. Young people receive free breakfast and lunch as well as free transportation to and from the program.

During the culminating LiFE Sports Olympics, young people develop a team name, team banner, advertisements, posters, family invitations, and radio announcements for the Olympics. In addition, the youth work together to assign roles to their team during the Olympics. Youth also serve as referees, athletes, trainers and coaches. In 2011, 74 percent of the participants reported that they are interested in going to college because of LiFE Sports.

“Over the past five years, LiFE Sports has become a university-wide initiative aimed not only at supporting disadvantaged youth in the Columbus community but also at impacting the field of youth development through teaching, learning, and research,” says LiFE Sports education coordinator Rebecca Wade-Mdivanian. “This award from NSLA is an indicator to our University and community that LiFE Sports is on its way to being a national model for University and community outreach.”

To read NSLA’s entire press release, click here