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Mack handled her project in a way that reflected what she had learned in the College. "I started with conducting a needs assessment," she explains. "I researched the National School Lunch Program to look up federally mandated policies and to make sure our program was in compliance. I also interviewed or surveyed students, parents, teachers and our principal. My assessment indicated that there was definitely a need not being met by the current lunch program."
Mack then created a service learning project that empowered and involved Congress Park students in their own social and emotional learning. One student became a member of the school district's food committee examining more nutritional food options. Students filled out surveys about their current lunches and participated in group discussions as well as meetings with their principal.
Mack says the previous food options contributed to learning and behavior problems. "The students hated all the lunches and many threw them away, which contribute dot classroom management problems after lunch since many students would go to afternoon classes on empty stomachs." Many students came from households unable to provide them with nutritionally balanced breakfasts or dinners, she added.
By the following spring, students had hot lunches as well as fruits and vegetables. "There is better behavior not only in the lunchroom but in the classrooms as well," Mack observes.
The project met important social and emotional learning goals for the students. "They were able to see how they contributed to the well-being of the school's community," says Mack. "They were able to reflect on how their participation affected the end result."
Mack has since been hired as a school social worker for the Willow Springs, Illinois school district.
With nearly 2.5 million men and women behind bars and a large percentage of them serving long-term sentences, end-of-life concerns in the correctional setting are rapidly becoming a critical issue.
An award-winning filmmaker at the University of Illinois at Chicago is working on a feature-length documentary aimed at sparking dialogue on this looming problem facing U.S. prisons.
Edgar Barens, visiting media specialist with UIC's Jane Addams Center for Social Policy and Research, says "Prison Terminal" breaks through the walls of one of America's oldest maximum-security prisons to tell of the final months in the life of a terminally ill prisoner and the trained hospice volunteers -- they themselves prisoners -- who care for him.
Shot over a six-month period inside the Iowa state penitentiary, the film draws attention to the fragility as well as the holistic benefits of a prison-based, prisoner-staffed, hospice program and provides an account of how the hospice experience can touch the forsaken lives of the incarcerated.
Barens recently presented excerpts from the documentary at the Stockholm Crimonology Symposium in Stockholm, Sweden, and at the American Correctional Hdalth Services Association Professional Development Conference in Orlando, Florida.
"Prison Terminal" is one of several projects currently underway at the Jane Addams Center for Social Policy and Research, which is directed by Creasie Finney Hairston, dean of the Jane Addams College of Social Work. The center's mission is to bring together the resources of academic institutions, community and advocacy groups to advance social-welfare policies and programs that meet the needs of urban communities, poor families, and the incarcerated.
For more information about the film or to view the trailer, go to http://www.prisonterminal.com
Quenette Walton was working in graduate school admissions when she encountered a social work issue.
"I came in contact with middle-class African American women who were having problems with depression," she recalls. "Some of those were students with whom I had built trusting relationships. So my role became one part admissions and one part social work, though not intentionally."
Walton decided to help the people who came to her, putting her experience into practice. She graduated in 1999 with a degree in psychology from the University of Michigan, and in 2004 with an AM in social work from the University of Chicago. She had also worked for two years in a child welfare agency as a case manager and an in-home family therapist.
These days, Walton is the project coordinator and faculty field liaison for the Child Welfare Traineeship Project at the Jane Addams College of Social Work. The impromptu counseling she did in the admissions office coupled with the experience she gained from her professional opportunities has led to her continuing research interest in depression among African American women. Additionally, her professional experiences culminated in being awarded one of 13 fellowships from the Council on Social Work Education Minority Fellowship Program for the 2012-2013 academic year. Walton will use the award (which can be renewed for up to three years) to examine the complex interaction of race, social class, gender, and cultural context as factors in mental health risks and behavioral health disparities among middle class African American women.
"There's no research about this population," she adds. "Much of the research focuses on low-income women. There is an assumption that because you are middle class you should not be depressed. We'll be looking at the subject from the social determinants of mental health framework and Kleinman's explanatory model of illness to understand the unique mental health risks and behavioral health disparities among this population."
Walton, now a doctoral student in the College, describes her interest in the subject of depression as "a combination of the personal and professional. I have had friends, relatives, and coworkers who have experienced depression and who haven't gotten treatment. I've worked in child welfare, community-based organizations, and school settings, and I don't think mental health issues were fully addressed in these settings. The question is, how do does this population understand treatment, and what's the best approach to take; is it the integration of exercise, therapy, or spirituality?"
Under the guidance of dissertation committee chair Sonya Leathers, associate professor in the College, Walton plans to conduct in-depth interviews with at least 50 women, examining their experiences with depression. "I want to examine how factors in mental health risks and behavioral health disparities inform middle class African American women's understanding of, expression of, and experiences with depression." She hopes to complete the study, which will be the final phase of her dissertation process, in two years.
Professor Larry Bennett, Principal Investigator of the
Great Lakes Addiction Technology Transfer Center (GLATTC), received a 5-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for $3.45 million with the first-year amount totaling $690,000. The grant will
will enable UIC addiction technology transfer specialists to reduce the time it takes for the latest research in treatment for addictions to be used in actual practice and serve two additional U.S. states.