By Rena Malai, News staff
Before schools of social work, before legal regulations and codes of ethics, there were social work pioneers, said Robert Cohen, a member of the NASW Pioneer steering committee.
Cohen remarked on this during his speech at the NASW Social Work Pioneer® 20th Anniversary Observance and 10th Annual Event. More than 100 people — including Pioneers, social work leaders and NASW and Foundation staff — attended the two-day event, which was held in October at the Woman’s National Democratic Club in Washington, D.C.
“In so far as fighting for social justice, it might be argued that agents of change — muckrakers, suffragettes — all were forerunners,” Cohen said. “All were travelers. All were pioneers.”
The NASW Social Work Pioneer® program was established by NASW founding Secretary Ruth Knee and former NASW Executive Director Mark Battle more than 20 years ago, Cohen said, and the anniversary observance celebrates the vision Knee and Battle had.
“They recognized the importance of capturing and preserving our (social work) heritage,” Cohen said. “Their vision and skill-driving force for the NASW Pioneer program, we celebrate today.”
NASW CEO and NASW Foundation President Angelo McClain said during his welcoming remarks that the event was a time for social workers and the Pioneers to pat themselves on the back collectively and individually.
“This is a celebration — celebrating ourselves as a profession and our Pioneers for the terrific work you have done,” McClain said. “We stand on your shoulders.”
McClain also encouraged the students in attendance to learn all they could from the social work mentors who surrounded them.
Chris Ova, a social work student at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., said the event was inspirational. He said Bernice Harper, chairwoman of the Pioneer Program Planning Committee, invited him to attend.
“It was great, because I was able to see all the social work pioneers and learn about a great profession as I start my education in social work,” Ova said.
Katie Pura, also a social work student at Catholic University, said she was there to learn more about the Pioneers, to network and to better understand the profession.
“I wanted to connect with the Pioneers and learn more about the events that are affecting our clients and the profession,” Pura said. “I wanted to be better informed about it, and know how to contribute in a positive way.”
From the January 2015 NASW News. NASW members can read the full story after logging in.