Social work juniors in Dr. Jennifer Crowell’s Policy II class recently participated in Social Work Day on the Hill at the Tennessee Legislative Plaza. They met with legislators, observed committee meetings and participated in a policy presentation and poster competition. Prior to the Day on the Hill, students worked in class to identify bills under consideration at the state level, and analyze the bills in the context of social work values, ethics and populations served, and then made recommendations on how to improve the bills they had studied. This collective work led the class to identify one topic to focus on for the policy presentation, the issue of Human Trafficking in Tennessee. At Day on the Hill, junior Christi Sidwell was selected as Belmont’s representative to speak in front of a crowd of students, faculty and social workers from across the state about Senate Bill 1655 and House Bill 1870. Christi spoke passionately about the issue in Tennessee and also about how the bills as proposed could be strengthened to ultimately provide better services and seek justice for people in Tennessee who have been trafficked. The hard work of all the students was recognized when Belmont University was announced the winner of the undergraduate competition.
Bryan Griffith, a junior social work major at Belmont, said, “Social Work Day on the Hill gave me great insight into how our state’s policies are influenced by social workers by people who see and experience social issues firsthand. I got to sit in on a committee hearing and see how research based on the reports of people who work directly with (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) families can be presented to the representatives who write laws about (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) eligibility. It was an exciting experience for me because I really got to see how legislature works. Only so much can be understood about how our government functions through reading from a textbook. If more people were to take a trip to legislative plaza, meet their representative, and observe their representative’s interactions with other members of the general assembly and organizations, we might have a better understanding of our legislature’s behavior.”