Gateway to Service….. Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

WAU Social Work Students Gained Out-of-Classroom Experience at Legislative Education and Advocacy Day

Takoma Park, Md. (April 10, 2017) A group of nine Washington Adventist University (WAU) social work students traveled from campus in Takoma Park to Annapolis during the Maryland General Assembly legislative session to participate in the 20th Annual Legislative Education and Advocacy Day (LEAD) on February 23. The event was organized by the Maryland Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and students in the WAU Social Welfare Policy course received class credit for attending.

“Every year, our students join hundreds of other social work students in Maryland to not only learn about social policy, but to make an impact on a current issue of importance to Marylanders.” said WAU Social Work Department Chair John Gavin, who participates in the event each year.

The 2017 Maryland General Assembly session started January 11 and ends today. During the session, the state buildings are crowded with officials and residents who are there to participate in hearings and votes essential to the people of Maryland. Activities for LEAD participants include plenary meetings with speeches from Maryland officials, along with a briefing by members of NASW Maryland on issues active in the legislature that are of interest to social workers.

One of the highlights each year is a rally at Lawyers Mall, a public square located near the Maryland State House on State Circle in Annapolis. This year’s rally focused on state budget issues impacting the availability of mental health services in Maryland. WAU students joined hundreds of other rally participants in chanting “Keep the Door Open!” and listening to speeches by Maryland activists who emphasized the continued need for mental health services.

During the lunch break, WAU students encountered a Takoma Park activist who was with a group preparing to give testimony at a hearing on a legislative initiative. He gave students an impromptu briefing on the issue and his lobbying activities; providing a real-life example of a policy initiative at the grassroots level. In the afternoon, students could choose to participate in workshops or sit in on any of the dozens of committee hearings taking place in the Senate and House office buildings. Before returning to campus, students visited a local restaurant in an historic building for a follow-up discussion about their experiences.

“Social Workers are to be commended for fulfilling an important role in society – to protect and care for the weak,” said WAU Provost Cheryl Harris Kisunzu, Ph.D., who met with the students before they traveled to Annapolis. “It is an honor to pray for our students as they engage in this hands-on learning activity.”

Students in Washington Adventist University’s social work program earn the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree, a professional degree accredited by the Council on Social Education that prepares them for a career in mental health, including counseling.  Courses in the BSW program are offered in traditional and evening format one evening per week to accommodate busy professionals who have work and family obligations.

For more information about Washington Adventist University, visit the website at

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Washington Adventist University is Montgomery County’s only four-year private college. Part of the Seventh-day Adventist system of higher education, Washington Adventist University has been educating college students since 1904 on a 19-acre campus in suburban Takoma Park, close to the nation’s capital. Approximately 1,100 students of all faiths participate in the university’s nine graduate and 42 undergraduate programs. The 2016 edition of U.S. News & World Report ranked Washington Adventist University among the best regional colleges in the north.

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