NASW Foundation Lyons and Gosnell MSW Scholarships Promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

By Paul R. Pace

Tamara Harris

While Tamara Harris has a background in finance, her second career is a first-generation social worker. 
In addition to helping people improve their mental health, her other passion is supporting education, particularly aiding first-generation college students achieve success.

Harris is fulfilling that desire by having her foundation, the Tamara L. Harris Foundation, donate to the NASW Foundation’s Verne LaMarr Lyons MSW Scholarships program. The Harris Foundation’s gift increased the amount and the number of scholarships from four to six. 

The Lyons program supports master’s degree candidates in social work who demonstrate an interest in health/mental health practice and a commitment to working in African American communities.

Harris believes it is paramount to help students who are challenged financially. Such aid can catapult these students on a trajectory that can impact thousands of lives for the better, she says. Her foundation, of which she is president, inspired her to 
go back to school to earn a social work degree so she could better understand the mental health aspect of helping people.

When thinking about what kind of philanthropy she wanted to support, it was a natural fit to donate to the Lyons scholarship program, she says, as it supports students doing research and studies that impact communities of color.

“As a Black woman, as someone from the Caribbean, who has lived overseas and dealt with so many different cultures, I truly understand the impact of that work,” says Harris, who is an LSW. She has seen the benefits of the Lyons Scholarship and has served as a panelist for the Social Work HEALS Student Policy Summit.

“It’s been wonderful to see the students who have benefited from that support,” Harris says. She also appreciates that the program benefits students more than just financially. It is also about supporting their professional development by giving them the opportunity to attend conferences, partake in a cohort, and prepare for success in their careers. Harris hopes the students who have benefited from the scholarships pay it forward to help other students in the future.

“There are always ways you can impact a student on their next trajectory,” she says. 

2022 Verne LaMarr Lyons MSW scholars

Esther Abiara, University of Oklahoma-Tulsa. After graduating and getting an LCSW, Abiara intends to create and provide accessible, tailored programs involving different creative therapies—such as art, music, dance, mindfulness, and play therapy—that could meet every aspect of children’s needs.

Felicia M. Daniels, Case Western Reserve University. “This scholarship will assist me in paying for the last year of my scholarship because I have to support my immediate family financially due to unforeseen circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have been able to assist my family in maintaining their housing as a result.”

Adam Fryer, University of Buffalo. “My hope is to one day obtain my clinical license so that I can provide high-quality, accessible mental health services to the most underserved in my community, and that would double the number of clinical therapists of color in Whatcom County.”

Oluwadara Oloyede, Simmons University. 
“I currently work at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in the Office of Sexual Health and Youth Development as an Adolescent Health Coordinator. In this role, 
I oversee nine community-based organizations that provide sexual health education and youth development programming for youth ages 10-21.”

Amy Oritz, Fordham University. “I want to learn to be the sort of clinician that can work within the community of those traumatized and help community members gain the coping skills necessary to begin the process of healing.”

Maryah Thompson, Columbia University. As a recipient of the Verne LaMarr Lyons Scholarship, Thompson will have the resources to continue her passion for assisting others as they navigate their mental health journey.

Gosnell Memorial Scholarship: In addition to Lyons scholars, the NASW Foundation administrates the Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial Scholarship program. It supports master’s degree candidates in social work who have demonstrated a commitment to working with American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic/Latinx populations. The latest Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial scholars are:

Theresa Aguirre, University of Nebraska at Omaha. “In relation to this scholarship, I think diversity is super important and competence of it should be high on the list of priorities, especially with globalization becoming more frequent. I love and appreciate diversity.”

Miranda Campos, University of Texas at Austin. “I seek to foster and develop a deeper understanding of the intercorrelation among social justices, community development, policy, and administration.”

Nataly Del-Cid, University of California, Berkeley. “I am pursuing a Masters in Social Welfare (MSW) degree to challenge how the field of social work engages with and provides mental health services to Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), especially the Latinx community.”

Chamese Dempsey, San Diego State University. Dempsey’s passion is to work in both micro and macro settings and in the future establish a Native Resource Center that will become a hub of services for Native people.

Elaine Metzker, Boston University. “With a Master’s Degree in Social Work, 
I will be in a better position to support and advocate for those without a voice.”

Viviana Najera, Columbia University. “I am obtaining my Master of Social Work to increase the representation of Latinas in mental health professions by becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. As an LCSW, I will provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services to people of color, specifically Latinx populations.”

Katherine Ordonez, University of Chicago. “As a queer, first generation Cuban-American cisgender woman from a community of Cuban exiles, I know that I can provide a much needed perspective to the field of social work which has traditionally been underrepresented by 
voices like mine.”

Yaquelin Perez-Albanil, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “I see myself as a leader in advancing the welfare of Latinx and immigrant communities, through my attempts of transforming systems, expanding opportunities, and researching to understand the complexity of immigration-related trauma.”

Emilio Rivera, Columbia University. “I come to this profession charged with a desire to reverse the scarcity of queer, BIPOC leaders in positions that effectuate social change and policy.”

Ben Warner, Metropolitan State University of Denver. “Through firsthand accounts of their experiences, I have learned a great deal about the obstacles migrants must overcome at every stage of their journeys. Despite the hardships they have endured, however, the Latino immigrant community has always inspired me with their steadfast hope and determination to succeed, and I plan to dedicate my career to serving this valuable, integral population.”

cover of August / September 2022 issue

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