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BSW students describe their experience of helping residents at an Indianapolis apartment complex as amazing


May 18, 2012

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  • Rob Schneider
    IU School of Social Work
  • Rich Schneider
    IU Communications

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For the Bachelor of Social Work students from the IU School of Social Work, the Introduction to Case Management class provided much more than three academic credits. It allowed them to see the look on a client’s face when a problem they had faced had been resolved.

The S200 Introduction to Case Management class included a service learning component that took the students out of the classroom and into an apartment complex on the east side of Indianapolis that serves low-income residents. Twenty-nine of the apartment complex’s 119 units were receiving social services through Partners in Housing Development Corp. as part of their housing subsidy.

Last fall the first Introduction to Case Management class turned an apartment at the complex into the Helping Hands Resource Center, a place people could turn to for help. The center was open from noon to 4 p.m. twice a week.

Erika Galyean, a member of the IU School of Social Work faculty and Bachelor of Social Work field coordinator, said the students took the experience far beyond what was first envisioned. A second class took over the center’s operation at the beginning of the spring semester in January.

Partners in Housing not only provided the space for the Helping Hands Resource Center, but it also helped equip the center with furniture, office supplies, and access to Internet and phone services. The class project also received funding from the Campus Compact and a scholarship award for a Service Learning Assistant.

Galyean said the class allowed students to engage in case management service learning in the environment of the client. It also provided an opportunity to research, observe and practice the knowledge and skills ascertained from the classroom and readings, she said.

The students developed policies and procedures for operating the Helping Hands Resource Center and all the necessary forms. They created client files, program logs and other ways to document the activities at the center. The students created a logo for T-shirts they wore while working at the center. They also arranged special events for residents, such as a Harvest Cook-Out and a Thanksgiving Dinner, in addition to making referrals to the United Christmas Service.

This spring a new class took up where the other left off, throwing a Valentine’s party and providing Easter baskets and an Easter egg hunt for children at the apartment complex.
As it turned out, not only were the students helping the apartment complex residents obtain needed resources, they were helping themselves, too. “Seeing the people’s faces and feeling their warmth, it is what social work is about,” said Beverly Posey, a senior. “It feels wonderful because seeing somebody that has a need and knowing that this is what you went to school for, to help them fill that need, it is awesome.”

What is it like when someone walks into the resource center looking for help? It’s when reality sets in, said student Nicole Guess. “You go into the mode of your classes, the strength values, all these different things come into play.” What’s more Guess said, “It works.”

Guess said she felt nervous, not knowing the expectations of the person she was trying to help or what they thought of her. But using the hours and hours of classroom training and education, Guess realized she was more than capable of helping.

Another student , Leann Modica, said the classmates brainstormed about finding resources for the center, which led them to reach out to the community and friends. They put out boxes for donations at the IUPUI Campus Center and the Social Work building to collect needed items. The class was successful in gathering donated hygiene products, which can be expensive, another student noted.

“It can be a bit overwhelming at first,” Modica said of the experience of dealing with her first client. “But you take a breath and say, ‘OK, this is what we learned, this is what we do.’ You sit down and talk to that person and find out what they need and you go get it.”

Student Kristin Mays said she learned that people in the community are more than willing to help others. She returned to her elementary school in Indianapolis with the idea of putting out boxes for goods donations or perhaps holding a fundraiser. After the school heard about the resource center, it donated $650 for the center's school supplies.

Student Elise Surface found the service learning aspect of the class to be the best experience she has had so far at IUPUI. “I really loved this class. I just felt like I did more in this class than in my entire college experience,” Surface said. “I really felt like we were making a difference.”
“I finally got to put everything I learned to work at the resource center,” Surface said. “It was nerve-wracking the first day. But once you sit down and talk with people it ends up being like a conversation and you just go from there and help them out.”

Another student , Cat Coudret, found herself being the lifeline to vital resources such as food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, things her clients didn't know how to obtain on their own. “It was a little overwhelming at first, but now I know I can do it.”


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