Miami graduate students provide social work to nearby schools


Submitted by Alia Agee.

Miami social work major Alia Agee poses with an acceptance letter to the internship program with her stepmother Cindy.

By Alex Lavine

As soon as May 16, Miami graduate students will begin social work internships through public schools in Hamilton, Dayton and Northridge under a nearly $5 million grant awarded earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Education.

The goal is to bring essential social work and other support services to families and K-12 public schools across Hamilton, Dayton, and Northridge, said Sharon Custer, professor and director of social work field education. It is also intended to minimize financial and other barriers to the social work students and help them through school, she said. 

“This grant gives me an opportunity to go to school and help the students who are falling through the cracks and parents who are unfamiliar with the school system,” said Porcha Gragston, a part time master’s degree student from Hamilton who has been working with families in the Hamilton area.

Included with the internship is a $4,000 scholarship per semester. The students are also awarded a $4,500 field placement subsidy, to help with financial burdens related to their work.

Miami senior Alia Agee, who is currently interning with older adults as she completes an undergraduate degree in social work, said the new program for her will be an opportunity to network and make connections.

“I was worried about how I was going to fund my master’s degree,” said Agee. “I’m excited for the experience and the funds to support my education.” 

This is the biggest grant the department has ever received. Over five years it will support 150 internships.

Masters of social work program director Prof. Shawnieka Pope said  students were “grateful, excited and emotional” when they found out they would receive sponsorship.

“We know we will make a difference and impact hundreds of people and families,” Custer said.