BSW Student Honored as Humanitarian of the Year for the College of Social Work

Lucy Lawrence holding her award as nominee for the 2024 Humanitarian of the Year award

"I wanted to go to a school that would offer me a college experience like you see in the movies as a first-generation college student," recalled BSW student Lucy Lawrence.

She came to FSU for its beautiful campus as a theater major, wanting to connect with people and provide commentary on the world around her through art. "I felt like I was missing the element of truly working with people and helping my community," she stressed. "When I found the College of Social Work, I fell in love with the program and the profession."

As a social work student, Lucy quickly found that each opportunity she explored led to another. She received the James and Mary Koalska Undergraduate Scholarship and attended the 2022 Scholarship and Awards Dinner. During the event, seated next to Dean and Professor Emeritus Dr. Nick Mazza, Lucy connected with him about their shared interest in the arts. He told her about the Arts & Athletics Program established during his deanship. "He encouraged me to apply as a mentor with the program," she remembered.

Working with the Arts & Athletics Program's director, Dr. Shalay Jackson, an associate teaching professor at the College of Social Work, Lucy gained experience sharing tools for positive youth development with middle school students. She also joined the Macro Social Work Student Network FSU Chapter (MSWSN). Lucy's interest in macro social work meant she quickly joined FSU's MSWSN chapter and became active as one of their public relations coordinators, sharing information and garnering student interest across campus.

"As I took more classes in the College of Social Work classes, I realized how committed the faculty and staff were to supporting the student body," she shared, "They showed me that if I put in the work to incite change, they would match it."

Through a course with BSW Program Director Carol Edwards, she learned about an opportunity for a summer job with the National Association of Social Workers Florida Chapter (NASW Florida). This role matched Lucy's needs and passions as a student struggling to balance jobs to pay the bills, coursework, and extracurriculars.

This summer job led to participation in NASW Florida's annual conference and a two-year student position with the organization. Through this experience, Lucy also participated in NASW Florida's LEAD event on March 5, 2024, speaking along with other social work student leaders during the organization's LEAD training day.

"Executive Director Dawn Brown has given me the opportunities to learn more about social work and legislation," she explained. "I have gained experience reading and analyzing legislation, breaking down the implications of new laws, effective ways to speak with legislators and at committee hearings, connecting with different stakeholders, and creating accessible materials to train, educate, spread awareness, and promote transparency in policy and legislation.

During the LEAD event at the Florida Capitol on March 6, 2024, Lucy met with three House representatives, one Florida Senator, and two legal aides. Her conversation with Sarasota Senator Joe Gruters brought attention to HB 99/SB68 Social Work Licensure Compact, which would make it easier for social workers from states within the compact to practice in Florida. This connection led to Senator Gruter's promise to Lucy to co-sponsor the bill.

"I was caught off guard, not expecting anything immediate to come out of the meeting, but was pleasantly surprised to see that by the end of the day, his name was on the senate website next to the bill," she expressed. "We live in a time where things can feel extremely overwhelming, and at times hopeless, but every step forward helps, and every change maker matters."

The small steps of the student group Payment 4 Placement (P4P) also gained traction. Fellow social work students Brittany Mackey and Makayla Evans invited Lucy in the spring of 2023 to be one of P4P's founding board members, an organization advocating payment for the field placements social work students must complete before graduating. The group met with College of Social Work Dean Springer, faculty, and staff and organized a Funding Internship Task Force. By 2024, P4P students helped organize and advocate for the College of Social Work's fundraiser for FSU's Great Give to focus on garnering financial support for social work students in their field placement. The 24-hour fundraiser resulted in more than $24,000 to support social work students in their essential social work internships.

If Lucy's impact on the College of Social Work needed to be more apparent, she became one of 15 CSW Student Ambassadors after the program was reinstated after the COVID-19 pandemic to serve as student representatives.

In her final semester, Lucy is completing her field internship with the FSU Department of Student Support and Transitions, working with FSU students to navigate course withdrawal and the coinciding challenges they might be facing. "This fits in with my interests as I get to ensure accessibility to higher education for students regardless of their background or current situation," she said.

Her dedication to all her pursuits was also recently recognized as the College of Social Work nominee for FSU's 2024 Humanitarian of the Year Award. Although appreciative of recognition and accolades, Lucy's sights remain fixed on making an impact and inciting change on a macro level and in the systems around her.

After graduating from FSU, she will pursue her Master of Social Work degree in the policy and political social work pathway at the University of Michigan. She is interested in working in local and state government.

"I want to be in legislative spaces to ensure our government is working for the people and that the policies being drafted create an accessible and equitable environment that allows communities to thrive," she stressed. "Social workers are the artists of the helping professions and are well equipped to serve in our legislative spaces. It is not the work of one person that makes a difference, but rather our collective efforts for a better and brighter future."

Thursday, March 28, 2024 - 03:48 PM
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