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University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Social work interns provide advocacy and education support for disabled

UALR graduate students Meredith Lane and Laura Bauer are completing internships with Partners for Inclusive Communities.

MSW StudentsThe North Little Rock-based agency provides support to individuals and families of children with disabilities. Lane and Bauer are students on the Management & Community Practice Track in UALR’s School of Social Work.

Lane said she wanted to start an advocacy program for people with disabilities, while Bauer realized during her first year that she was interested in education, awareness, and prevention.

Despite the difference in goals, both are excited about their work, which is helping fulfill Partners’ mission to fully and meaningfully help those with disabilities participate in community life, effect systems change, prevent disabilities, and promote healthy lifestyles.

Partners is a member of the nationwide Association of University Centers on Disabilities.

One of Bauer’s projects involves teaching healthy lifestyles to individuals with developmental delays. She and her field instructor quickly realized their material would need to be modified for those who could not read.

“It required a lot of on-the-spot thinking, one-on-one training, and creative thinking,” Bauer said, adding that she was allowed the freedom to develop those skills in her current position.

Lane is working with the Housing Trust Fund of Arkansas, a program that provides funds for lower income families. She joined others in a series of listening tours and outreach meetings to recruit advocates, gather input, and provide education about the program.

Both agree that being allowed to work from home has brought needed flexibility, while challenging them to manage time and workload efficiently.

David Deere and Vanessa Smith serve as the field instructors for the students at Partners. Both Deere and Smith started as interns at Partners while still in college, and became full staff members when they graduated from UALR’s Master of Social Work program.

Deere said that intern work varies at Partners, but he tries to encourage each student to identify areas of interests and develop skills accordingly.

Smith said that beyond the basic skills and values needed to be a social worker, she hopes that interns at Partners learn to empower others and respect self-determination for all people.