By Ben Balderas
This summer, the School of Social Work hosted its 5th annual Social Work Introduction for the Next Generation (SWING) program for rising high school seniors from counties across North Carolina. Ten students participated in the program, which gives traditionally underrepresented students the opportunity to experience and learn more about higher education and the field and profession of social work.
Each year, the program focuses on a specific societal issue; this year’s topic was mental health. Students participated in activities designed to broaden their understanding and awareness of mental health issues, including a film screening and discussion, lecture presentation and panel discussion.
One of the highlights of this year’s program was a tour of the Tiny Home Community Collaborative at the Farm at Penny Lane, where students had the opportunity to learn more about the innovative work underway to address chronic mental health and homelessness in North Carolina. The students enjoyed visiting the farm, the tiny homes, and learning more about the treatments and programs that are being used, including pet therapy, assertive community treatment (ACT) teams, and holistic wellness.
The SWING program is also designed to assist students in planning and preparing for higher education. Students participated in StrengthsQuest activities and discussions to discover and learn how to build on their existing talents and strengths. Sharon Holmes Thomas, the School’s assistant dean for recruitment, admissions and financial aid, conducted a writing workshop to offer students helpful tips and tools for their applications. In addition, the UNC Office of Undergraduate Admissions provided an information session and campus tour that was also open to participants’ parents.
Overall, SWING participants impressed the faculty and staff with their knowledge, insights, and passion for social justice and change.