BSW students get a chance to help Indianapolis residents in case management course

For the Bachelor of Social Work Students from the Indiana University 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.

Awesome and amazing were two of the words students used to describe what they felt when they had met a client’s needs.  

Students of Case managment classThe S200 Introduction to Case Management class included a service learning component that took the students out of the classroom and into an apartment in an eastside apartment complex on the eastside of Indianapolis that serves low-income residents. The apartment complex has 119 units, of which 29 units were receiving social services through Partners in Housing Development Corp. as part of their housing subsidy.

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

Erika Galyean, a member of the faculty at the IU School of Social Work and BSW Field Coordinator, pointed out the class allowed students to engage in case management service learning in the environment of the client, provided the opportunity to research, observe and practice the application of the knowledge and skills ascertained from the classroom and readings.

The center project began last fall when the first class of the Introduction Case Management 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. But Galyean noted 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.
The students developed policies and procedures for operating the center, all the necessary forms, as well as creating client files, program logs and other ways to document the activities at the center. The students created T-shirts with a logo they wore while working at the center. They also obtained supplies need at the center as well as arranging and providing supplies for special events for residents at the apartment complex, such as a Harvest Cook-Out, and a Thanksgiving Dinner in addition to making referrals to the United Christmas Service.  This spring the new class took up whether the other left off, holding a Valentine’s party and provided 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 peoples’ 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 know that this is what you went to school for to help them fill that need. It is awesome.”

What is like for someone to walk into the resource center looking for help? It’s when reality sets in, said Nicole Guess. “You go into the mode of your classes, the strength values, all these different things come into play.” What’s more Guess adds, “It works.” Guess said she felt kind of nervous, not knowing what the expectations of the person she was trying to help would be or what they thought of her. But utilizing the hours and hours of classroom training and education, Guess realized she was more than capable of helping. The experience at the center boosted her confidence to be able to work with people and made her glad she had chosen to be in the social work program.

Leann Modica, said the classmates got together to brainstorm on how to find resources for the center and led them to reach out to the community, friends and put out boxes for donations at the Campus Center and the Social Work building to collect needed items. “It can be a bit overwhelming at first,” Leann said of the experience of dealing with your 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.” In a letter to the next class of students that will take over the center’s operation, Leann wrote a note suggesting they “don’t be afraid and jump in with both feet. You are going to make mistakes, but don’t worry about that.”

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.” The class was successful in gathering donated hygiene products, which can be expensive, she noted. “I finally got to put everything I learned to work at the resource center. It was never-wracking the first day. It’s like, oh my gosh, 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. It was a lot easier than I expected. It’s a great feeling being able to help somebody out and help them better themselves.”  

 Cat Coudret said it was her first time having a real world experience. “I watched 1,000 videos, read the text books, but this is my first time of actually working with a client and having to find them resources. It’s just real world stuff. It’s just awesome,” Cat said.

Cat found herself being the lifeline to vital resources such as food stamps and TANIF, things her clients did not know how to obtain on their own. “It was a little overwhelming at first, but now I know I can do it.”

Kristin Mays noted that she liked the idea of having a class where you read the materials, have lectures on it and apply it. “That was a really good learning experience for me. Not only was she able to learn about it in the classroom, but actually being able to put it into practice took it a step father, Mays said. She also 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 needed goods for the center or perhaps even holding a fundraiser. The school was planning to hold a dance-a-thon, but hadn’t decided where it would donate the money collected from the event. After they heard about the resource center from Kristen, the school donated $650 to the center so it could buy school supplies.

Elizabeth Garrison said the class only confirmed her decision to apply to join the social work program. While she has worked at an agency before, Elizabeth said had no actual role in helping people. But at the resource center, “I was actually doing something I’ve never done before.” Elizabeth said it was a little nerve-wracking in the beginning, but once you got into it, it was a lot easier. It really opened your eyes about how much help people need, she added.

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Rob Schneider
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