Social Work Honors Society Addresses Economic Justice in 2014

April 30, 2014 / By: Rebecca Mariscal, class of ‘15, Nora Smyth, BSW '14, and Caitlyn Wright, BSW '14
Feb. 16 induction ceremony

The Beta Epsilon Chapter of the Phi Alpha National Social Work Honors Society was focused squarely on our theme of Economic Justice this semester.

On Feb. 16, the society inducted 11 new undergraduate social work students who were selected based on their service and academic achievements.

The Beta Epsilon National Honors Society “recognizes and encourages superior academic achievement among undergraduate social work students, service to the community, advancement in scholarship, and social justice while promoting humanitarian goals and ideals.”

The Honor Society’s induction ceremony keynote address was devoted to economic injustice and featured Lissa Jones from KMOJ radio. Professing, “We need new eyes, a narrative of all perspectives.” Jones reminds social work students that we must be active in seeking if we are to be truly helpful. “In order to heal, we must meet people where they stand, and acknowledge the path behind them.” So what can we do to create a path of economic justice in our future? Jones says we can only respond to what we are consciously aware of and what we choose to integrate into our worldviews. Educating ourselves and taking responsibility for our role in reality is the only way to create a new future.

The honor society’s annual spring event was “Economic Injustice,” held on April 30 at St. Catherine University. The panel discussed Minnesota-based issues such as poverty and the minimum wage. It featured Jane Tigan of Minnesota Compass, Veronica Mendez from Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha, Rep. Andrea Kieffer, Stephanie Hogenson of Children’s Defense Fund and Sen. John Marty.

Tigan shared that about 319,000 people live in poverty in the Twin Cities area, about 11 percent of the population. Of those impoverished, more than 100,000 are children. She said the concentration of poverty is highest in the cities, meaning one in four people live in poverty in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Tigan reminded attendees that the federal guideline for poverty is a yearly income of $11,500 for a single individual and $24,000 for a family of four.

“What do we mean when we say that word, poverty?” Tigan said. “Broadly speaking we mean not enough. Not enough resources, not enough money.”

Kieffer stated that in order to address the income gap in Minnesota, we must first address the achievement gap. She said Minnesota has one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation. Students need access to good schools and high quality teachers in order to learn essential skills that will move them forward.

“We need to start at the preschool level to make sure that children are getting a good, foundational education,” Kieffer said. Hogenson, on the other hand, stated that in order for children to perform well and achieve success, the family needs to have a steady source of income.

“When children are well-fed, have access to healthcare, and have high-quality early childhood experiences, they’re going to be not only more successful in the moment and later on in their academic careers, but they’re more likely to go on to college and be successful later on in life,” Hogenson said.

Hogenson also emphasized the importance of valuing all children. Marty agreed, saying we should encourage all people to work hard and get a better education. He said in order to ensure economic justice we need to make sure everyone has a solid foundation.

“Economic justice should matter to every one of us,” Marty said.