Social Work Students Leading Make a Difference Day Projects


Panelists deciding how to allocate funding for annual Make a Difference Day projects were so impressed by what Dalton State Social Work students presented this year, they agreed to fund two additional projects.

Each year Tammy Rice, director of field education for the Department of Social Work, works with the United Way of Northwest Georgia on the annual day of volunteerism. United Way awards $250 to a social work project, but students must compete with each other for those funds.

This year, five student groups presented proposed projects. The panel chose to award the promised $250 to renovate and refresh an outside waiting area at a Highland Rivers facility in Dalton. Highland Rivers serves people who suffer from addiction, as well as those with intellectual and development disabilities and mental health issues.

Private donations will fund projects to organize and make repairs to the Greater Works building and in spreading suicide prevention and positive messages at Morris Innovative High School.

“I am blown away by the passion the students have and the knowledge they have about these projects,” said one panelist during the deliberation process.

“Being involved in social work means knowing how to assess community needs,” Rice said. “Students need to know how to apply for funding to help meet these needs and know how to pitch ideas to funding sources all while practicing individual and group professional skills.

“Over the past five years, our class has completed community service projects for a number of different organizations,” she said. “While each group hopes their project will be the one selected, we all come together in the end to implement the winning project. Partnering with the United Way is such an honor, as they are not just providing our students with the funding for the project, but the opportunity to learn first-hand about funding proposals and the process. We appreciate the volunteers from United Way giving their time to listen to our students’ proposals and selecting the one they want to fund.”

This year’s winning project at Highland Rivers will include painting, cleaning, and some maintenance. On that team were students Jamila Evelyn, Faith McGee, Chelsea Nigh, Amandy Rodriguez, and Alberto Pedro.

The project at Greater Works is being funded by Stuart and Sharon Nelson. Stuart Nelson was so moved by hearing the proposals, he committed the funds privately. Greater Works is a nonprofit that serves homeless and indigent people in Dalton. The organization provides meals twice a week, laundry and shower facilities, a computer lab to help with job searches and resumes, as well as a food pantry and clothing closet.

The project there will include organization, as well as maintenance and painting. Students on that team include Peter Anderson, Sergio Hernandez, Karley Moon, Abbigail Stone, and Lily Bradley.

The project at Morris Innovative High School includes placing vinyl messaging for suicide prevention and positive thoughts on the bathroom walls. It will also display the suicide prevention hotlines and texting numbers.  It will be funded anonymously. Team members are Liliana Cornejo, Meghan McCommon, Marcel Navarro, Diana Silver, and Janet Williams.

“This project will be impactful because kids don’t hear positive messages enough,” a panelist said. “There are too many negative messages in our society.”

Roadrunners can sign up to help with the Highland Rivers or Greater Works projects on Roadrunner Serve. For more information on Make a Difference Day, visit ourunitedway.org.