Being an MSW student at UNC opens the door for so many different opportunities. Because social work exists in so many settings and so many roles, it can almost be overwhelming to find your niche.
On the first day of orientation last year, I remember the Social Work Coordinators from SHAC (Student Health Action Coalition) coming to speak and recruiting volunteers. Having heard about SHAC from other students, I signed up to volunteer a few nights during my first fall semester. In the spring, I signed up for more volunteer shifts and applied and was selected to be a Social Work Coordinator for this year. In the big wide field of social work, I had found my thing (or at least one of them).
SHAC is the oldest student-run free medical clinic in the country. Dating back to the late 1960s, students from social work, medicine, dentistry, nursing, public health, and physical therapy have all contributed to make SHAC a thriving community health center for the uninsured and underinsured.
Social work students at SHAC do a brief biopsychosocial assessment with each patient, using direct practice skills, and then provide appropriate resources. Social work volunteers provide community resources and education on a number of topics, including the Affordable Care Act, SNAP (food stamps), mental health resources in the area, employment and educational opportunities, women’s health, and so much more. Working with patients from underserved groups provides value and service to the community and enhances the social work student’s educational experience.
I encourage anyone who is considering the UNC School of Social Work to think more about what ways they want to be involved in the community while they are students. My nights at SHAC have been one of the most rewarding parts of my MSW education.