Social Work Students Lend Hand, Make a Difference


Molly Helton never thought of herself as a leader until she was recently offered an opportunity to make a lasting impact on her community.

“I would not consider myself a leader,” said Helton, a social work major expected to graduate in the spring. “I am more of a person who sits back and takes direction from those who are leading, but Make a Difference Day changed all of that.”

Tammy Rice, the director of field education in social work at Dalton State, gives her students the opportunity to collaborate on a community service project every year for the United Way of Northwest Georgia’s Make a Difference Day. Make a Difference Day encourages people across the world to make meaningful contributions wherever possible.

This annual project allows students to work together in groups, research community needs and successfully pitch their ideas.  Each group completes research in the community and creates a proposal based on their data. The winning group earns a grant supplied by United Way. While the grant gives students the ability to serve their community, the research allows for a deeper understanding of communal impact. Group members also received additional private donations. 

“Over the past five years our class has completed community service projects for a number of different organizations,” Rice 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 United Way is an honor, as they are not just providing our students with the funding for the project, but with the opportunity to learn first-hand about funding proposals and the process of pitching their ideas. We appreciate the volunteers from United Way giving their time to listen to our students’ proposals and selecting the one they most want to fund.”  

This year’s winning proposal advocated outdoor improvements to the Compassion House, a facility that is a safe place for foster children and parents to rebuild relationships. Students and volunteers helped install a brand new outdoor playscape for children to use during family visits.

Christine Brown, social work student at Dalton State, served as one of the project coordinators alongside Helton and Chris Delmas.

“This project taught me that I truly want to serve my community in an ongoing manner,” said Brown, who plans to attend graduate school and become a licensed social worker. “It was a very satisfying experience to serve Compassion House with the skills I have learned at Dalton State College. I also learned that thinking outside of the box and utilizing creative ideas lead to an even bigger reward while fulfilling an unmet need in our community.”

“I became very hands on and very driven,” Helton said. She found herself using critical thinking skills to get the job done. She said giving Compassion House a completed outside playset for children and families was a “labor of love.”

Social work involves knowing the community, pitching proposals, applying for funding and meeting community needs Rice said. This assignment provides a valuable hands-on-experience in the social work field for her students. Students build networking, organizational communication and teamworking skills.

“This playground project fulfilled the biggest item on Compassion House’s wish list, and all because of a social work class project,” Brown said. “It’s humbling to know that we have had such an amazing impact on our community.”