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NASW’s youngest chapter leader working to increase membership

Danielle SmithAs a high school student, Ohio resident Danielle Smith already had a clear picture of what she wanted to do with her life.

“As a freshman (in high school), I had an interest in social justice and I saw the power of macro level work,” Smith said. “My mom worked in a school that helped students with developmental disabilities and I would volunteer there.”

Smith said she knew then that she wanted to make a difference, and that early recognition led her to her current position as head of the NASW Ohio Chapter. At 25, Smith is NASW’s youngest chapter executive director nationwide.

“I’ve worked in the Ohio Senate, and being from Ohio I understand the state, the schools, the towns and the community,” she said. “I’m able to take the knowledge and experience I’ve gained and apply it to the work that NASW is doing.”

A multiple graduate of Ohio State University, Smith holds an MSW and BSW as well as a second master’s degree in public policy and management. Her first positions included interning with the Community Refugee and Immigration Services in Ohio and working as a page for the Ohio Senate. Smith began her first role at NASW-Ohio in 2007 as an intern, after which she was offered a full-time position — a year later — as the chapter’s services coordinator.

“When I applied for the ED position, I had been at NASW-Ohio for five years,” Smith said. “There was a cohesive progression in my application as I experienced all the roles in the chapter office, from being an intern, to an office manager, to the services coordinator.”

Smith said she was excited when she found out about a year ago that she was hired for the ED role. Her plans for the future of NASW-Ohio include increasing membership in the upcoming fiscal year and increasing the value of membership by offering members free workshops within the northeast Ohio region, as well as networking opportunities and CEU options.

Smith says the chapter is on the right track, as membership has increased 6 percent since July of 2011.

“We’re at a stage where the chapter can become a mega chapter,” she said. “I feel at this stage in my life, I bring in a lot of energy. I’m still enthusiastic and I think things are possible.”