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University of Michigan: Supporting Future School Social Workers for High-Need Communities

Addressing Shortages, Fostering Diversity, and Creating Positive Change


The University of Michigan's School of Social Work has been a key partner in the Michigan Earn, Learn, and Serve in Schools (Mi-ELSiS) program, administered by the Michigan Health Council (MHC). This program aims to address the shortage of mental health professionals in high-need school districts in Michigan and has been instrumental in supporting Master of Social Work (MSW) students both financially and experientially. University of Michigan is one of five universities that currently participates.


Specialized Courses Empowering Social Workers


The University of Michigan provides specialized courses designed to prepare students for the unique challenges of working with high-need populations in school settings. Courses such as SW626: School Social Work Assessments and SW628: School Social Work Interventions equip students with the skills to conduct comprehensive assessments and implement evidence-based interventions. Emphasis is placed on understanding diverse cultural backgrounds and collaborating with teachers, parents, and stakeholders to gather comprehensive information.


In addition to the required courses, students can choose elective courses like SW617: Death, Loss and Grief, SW622: Child and Family Well-Being Micro Practice, and SW630: Context of Life Course Development. The Trauma Certificate courses, including SW540: Trauma Basics, SW541: Trauma-Informed Practice, and SW542: Creating and Sustaining Trauma-Informed Systems, further enrich the students’ knowledge and preparedness.


Impactful Contributions to High-Need School Districts


The Mi-ELSiS program has demonstrated its impact in several significant ways. Not only has it helped address the shortage of mental health professionals in high-need school districts, but it has also provided MSW students with financial support and a platform to give back to the community. In exchange for participating in the program and training in high-need schools, MSW students receive stipends. The program hopes to provide valuable experiences for MSW students as well as the K-12 students they serve.


Voices from the Field: Students' Perspectives


The testimonials of students participating in Mi-ELSiS provide a firsthand account of the program's effectiveness.


“I absolutely love my fieldwork,” says Claire Henderson, a student placed in the Woodhaven-Brownstown Public School District of Brownstown. “I am getting hands-on experience working with students, sitting in on REEDs and IEPs and learning how to navigate difficult situations. I feel completely supported by my supervisor as well as other social workers, speech pathologists, teachers, and administration!”


“At UofM, we emphasize the considerations of privilege, oppression, diversity, and social justice when working with populations of high-need,” says Valerie Guerra, a student working in the Crestwood School District of Dearborn Heights. “By having the education an MSW provides, social work students will have the characteristics and knowledge required to help students succeed to their highest potential; especially, in areas of need.


Evelyn Kasperek, placed in Romulus Public Schools, underlined the significance of Mi-ELSIS in providing learning opportunities and experiences that might not have been accessible due to financial constraints. “To me, the idea of having a great social worker not experience what I am learning and experiencing at Romulus Elementary due to transportation or other financial concerns is heartbreaking. I think this program allows for great learning opportunities that otherwise may not have happened due to various circumstances.


Hopes for the Future of Mi-ELSiS


Students like Valerie, Claire, and Evelyn express hope for the continued success of Mi-ELSIS. They envision the program encouraging more social workers to commit to serving in high-need schools, fostering personal and professional development, and ultimately creating a network of care providers committed to giving back to the community.


The University of Michigan's participation in the Mi-ELSiS program is not only addressing the immediate need for mental health professionals in high-need school districts but is also nurturing a generation of social workers dedicated to diversity, inclusion, and positive change in the lives of students.  



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