Putting the Community in Community Social Work

April 20, 2018

Portage College's Community Social Work (CSW) program is hardly a new one - it is more than four decades old -- but it is constantly evolving to meet the needs of students and the communities the College serves.

Community Social Work has been a flagship program at Portage for 42 years. Started in 1976 as Community Resource Worker, the program became a two-year CSW diploma in 1985.

"It was at this point that the program [put] more emphasis on rural social work and Indigenous populations," recalled former instructor Lori Zalewski.

The program has grown in stature and reputation, and is now offered in Cold Lake as well as Lac La Biche. The College has transfer agreements with other Alberta post-secondary institutions to allow graduates to continue their social work studies should they so choose. Transfer agreements are in place with Athabasca University, MacEwan University, and the University of Calgary.

"Community Social Work has excellent quality, superb competency, and portability of credits which is only part of the reason why students come here," said President and CEO Dr. Trent Keough. "They receive a strong academic foundation and are better prepared to transfer to University. This is why the College's goal is to make all our programs transferable throughout Alberta."

The College worked with the University of Calgary to bring its Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program to the Lakeland region for the first time in 2013, allowing students to receive a U of C degree while staying close to home. More than 70 students applied for the 25 available seats. The College is continuing to seek collaborative opportunities to bring a BSW program back to the region.

"This is all about ensuring students in our region have the opportunity to study in the fields of their choices without having to travel very far to do so," said Vice President Academic Guy Gervais. "This benefits the students but it also benefits the communities we serve."

Portage's CSW students have always been involved in the community. The two-year program requires students to complete 900 hours of practicum work at shelters, schools, hospitals, seniors' centres, correctional facilities and other non-profit agencies before they receive their diploma.

"It's a win-win situation for everyone concerned," said CSW Program Coordinator Lyla Allan. "Our students gain invaluable hands-on work experience and our partner agencies get top-notch support from our future graduates which allows them to offer more programs and services to their communities."

As part of Social Work Week this year, students set up displays, distributed positive affirmation cards and handed out cake to the public. As part of their community development course, students raised thousands of dollars for several organizations including the Lac La Biche Humane Society and the College and Waskaysoo food banks.

Second-year CSW student Amber Weasel Head was part of a team that collected $1,000 for the Mesakanakew Ahtayowkan: Road Spirit Cultural Club at Amisk Community School. Students raised the money through bake sales, bottle drives and by running a canteen and raffle at the College's annual Round Dance.

"The whole process is a real example of how the Community Social Work Program provides terrific hands-on experience," said Weasel Head. "We are truly honoured to be part of the community, part of a great team, part of a tremendous program and part of an excellent experience that will last a lifetime."

Community Development

For more information about Portage College's Community Social Work program, check out this link.

This weekend the Community Social Work year 2 students are supporting the Humane Society Dog-a-Thon.
Saturday April 21st from 12pm to 3pm.
Walk starts at LLB Regional Humane Society to the dog park located near the bowling alley and back to the LLB Regional Humane Society.
Contact Laura at 780-327-9934 or Shaylee at 780-623-9765 for more info.

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