Two UVM seniors – Diana Allos ('18) and Shaya Ginsberg ('18) – are recipients of the Lara Sobel Memorial Scholarship award given by the Vermont Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-VT).
"We are pleased to present Diana and Shaya with our 2017 Lara Sobel Memorial Scholarship,” said NASW-VT Executive Director Darlene Fury. “The scholarship was created to honor social worker Lara Sobel, who spent her professional life working to protect Vermont's children. In addition, Lara was a mentor to new social workers, supporting and encouraging them in the profession she loved.”
Lara Sobel worked for the Vermont Department of Children and Families as a case worker advocating for Vermont’s most vulnerable children from 2002 until her death in 2015. She graduated from UVM with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Political Science in 1989, and also attained her Master’s in Social Work (MSW) degree from UVM in 2002.
Diana and Shaya will receive a monetary award, membership in NASW VT, free entry to NASW VT workshops and conferences, and the provision of a social work mentor for the duration of the award year.
NASW-VT awards the annual scholarship to BSW (Bachelor of Social Work) students in Vermont who reflect Lara's ability to seek out the good no matter how overwhelming and negative the circumstances; never allow the misfortune of individuals or their level of despair to become routine or acceptable; and strengthen the cause of child welfare, social justice, and the health and wellness of child welfare staff.
There was only one career that Diana ever considered. “From the time when I was young, I would engage in informal social work as second nature,” she recalls. “From involvement in my church, volunteer work in the community, and talking to friends about problems, much of what I did was in an effort to help people navigate human experiences and alleviate some sort of pain.”
As a Middle Eastern woman from Rochelle Park, New Jersey, she found that professionals who were tasked with helping her and her peers lacked an understanding of other cultures, values and needs. “I remember those experiences and feelings, and use that as motivation to do my very best and truly apply myself in my major,” she explains. “I came to this field to critically look for gaps between services and the needs of clients, and to start conversations that would fill those gaps.”
Diana feels that the BSW program at UVM is preparing her to live up to the ethical standards of the social work profession. “We are tasked as professionals to serve all of our clients with competence,” she says. “Our code of ethics details our commitment to the interests of our clients, our need to be competent in the areas in which we work, and our commitment to cultural awareness and social diversity.”
Currently, Diana is in the midst of her field experience at the Burlington Community Justice Center as a Victim’s Advocate. “This placement has greatly pushed me to develop my Social Work identity,” she says. “I enjoy this line of work and find meaning in helping those who have been impacted by crime move forward and receive some form of reparation. I greatly appreciate the framework of restorative justice.”
Last semester she interned with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program. “In my time at VRRP, I was able to assist in the volunteer office, plan events, translate a cooking class taught by two new American sisters, and learn about the barriers workers face in delivering services to clients during this political time,” she says.
Over the past summer, Diana enjoyed the opportunity to study Dutch Social Policy while abroad in the Netherlands. “I learned about the drug, housing, birth control, criminal justice, gun control, immigration, and prostitution policies that are in place in that country and in some surrounding countries,” she explains. “We compared the policies and cultures of different European countries and different areas in the United States. The way that issues are addressed by other countries fascinated me and helped me to become more globally aware.”
On campus, Diana is a member of the executive board of the Womyn of Color Coalition, and currently serves as the organization’s co-political chair. She is also a member of NoNamesforJustice, an organization founded and run by students to advance racial justice at UVM.
“Looking back over the last few years, there have been very important moments for me,” she says. “I want to extend my deep and honest gratitude to the Social Work faculty, staff and community at UVM. I have felt truly supported by so many people in my time here. I also want to thank my classmates who give me inspiration, motivation, and strength.”
Looking ahead, Diana plans to earn her Master’s in Social Work (MSW), and eventually a law degree. “I would love to work in the criminal justice system, with new Americans, and with survivors of sexual and domestic violence. I also have interest in residential programs and clinical work.”
Her long-range plans include running for public office. “I think that it is deeply important for politicians to have relationships with, have knowledge of, and be connected to the people who they are representing.”
Shaya chose a career in social work to empower and advocate for those who are suffering, and for those who are being denied their basic human rights. “In my opinion, the best way to advocate for those who are being silenced is through policy,” says the UVM senior from Ardsley, New York. To me, this seems like the best way to change stigma and fight for our future. We are living in a quickly changing world, and social systems are struggling to keep up with the times. Social workers are very much needed to facilitate this process, and to ensure that our changing systems operate within an anti-oppression framework.”
Of her senior field placement at Steps to End Domestic Violence, Shaya reflects, “It been a fantastic experience so far. I'm really grateful to be in an undergraduate program that gives you this kind of real world experience, especially since this is exactly the type of work I want to do within social work.”
Another especially gratifying experience for Shaya involved working together with other students to form the Human Trafficking Awareness and Activism Club (HTAAC) at UVM. “I have learned so much about the ins and outs of modern day slavery and have gotten a lot of practice educating others on the subject,” she explains. “This experience has been really valuable not only for improving my leadership and presentation skills, but I have also heard from participants that our presentations and awareness campaigns have been really eye-opening…students walk away feeling more prepared to identify and call out trafficking when they see it, whether it's in their community or halfway across the world. Knowing that we’ve helped to spread this awareness, and that HTAAC will carry on in this mission after I graduate, is probably one of the most rewarding aspects of my time at UVM.”
Previously, Shaya has done field work with a variety of service organizations including the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, the Community and Economic Development Office, Senator Bernie Sanders’ Office, and My Sister’s Place.
After graduation, Shaya intends to stay in Burlington and work locally while pursuing policy research in partnership with local organizations. Within a few years, she would like to pursue a Master's degree in Social Work.
“I plan to dedicate my career to advocating for survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, and human trafficking, particularly on a policy level,” she says. “Above all, I believe this country needs comprehensive federal legislation requiring all middle and high schools to educate students on sexual assault and dating violence. This is a core mission of mine that will likely motivate each step of my career path.”