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School hosts annual program that introduces high school seniors to careers in social work

The UNC School of Social Work hosted its 3rd annual Social Work Introduction for the Next Generation (SWING) program from June 26 to June 28. This free, three-day on-campus event is co-sponsored with the UNC Health Affairs Pipeline Partnership Initiative, a UNC collaboration aimed at increasing the recruitment and retention of underrepresented minority students in health careers.

SWING is designed to introduce rising high school seniors to careers in social work by giving them the opportunity to meet social work faculty members, practitioners and students, and learn first-hand about opportunities in the field. Seventeen students from across North Carolina and Georgia participated in lectures, service activities, and information sessions on preparing for and applying to colleges.

The theme of this year’s SWING program was disability. Sherry Mergner, a clinical assistant professor at the school and a social work clinician at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, delivered the presentation, “Accepting Differences: Making the World a Better Place for Everyone.” During the session, students discussed models of disability, types of disabilities, and how to change and address attitudes and beliefs about individuals with disabilities. In addition, students learned how to promote inclusivity and engage in advocacy for individuals with disabilities within their own communities.

Mergner’s presentation helped participants prepare for volunteer service with the Autism Society of North Carolina’s Camp Royall, a highlight for many participants. The 133-acre facility near Pittsboro opened in 1972 and is the nation’s oldest and largest camping program for individuals on the autism spectrum. During their service, SWING participants assisted in grounds work throughout the recreational area and observed, interacted, and assisted staff with a variety of camping activities. The participants marked the end of their service by participating in the campfire with campers.

The SWING program covered a variety of social work and college preparation events, including: panel discussions with social workers and another with current undergraduate students at UNC; a viewing of the 2013 documentary, “Best Kept Secret”; a strengths personality assessment; an SAT preparation session and an undergraduate UNC admission information session. Students left with new information about the social work profession as well tips for applying to colleges.

The Carolina Leadership Development, Office of Undergraduate Admissions, the UNC Health Affairs Pipeline Partnership Initiative, Cade Underwood with Princeton Review, and professional social work panelists — Angel Ash, Ben Balderas, Ashley Benefield, Karon Johnson, Donald McDonald, and Jessica Shurer – supported this year’s program and helped to ensure its success.

Story by MSW student Ashley Wilhelm