Among the activities that Ohio’s social workers might do to celebrate social work month in their schools or their places of employment, many choose to participate in the annual spring Advocacy Day at the Ohio Statehouse.
This event, sponsored by our statewide Ohio Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers each year, provides an opportunity for students and practitioners alike to come together for professional networking, learning about advocacy day and how things work at the statehouse, and then meeting with Ohio NASW student interns who educate the group on the issues foremost of concern each year.
Dr. Michel Coconis, Visiting Assistant Professor of Social Work, requires students to attend Advocacy Day for each class to begin a students’ assimilation into the profession and to learn what legislative advocacy is all about. This year, 37 OHIO Zanesville enrolled students joined approximately 370 others from around the state. They spent time together in the morning over Zoom where they had a very active chat. Then, they met with classmates, strangers, or a combination to prepare for their legislative visits with most of Ohio’s 33 state senators!
Many of the students stayed for the long day and some reported being glad it was required because they wouldn’t do it on their own! Participants were surprised at the preparation session and how much they learned from each other. They shared data and personal stories while: 1) addressing the needs of students with loan debt and the burden it places on family life, 2) voicing concerns about conversion “therapy”, 3) questioning a bill that seeks to ban male to female transgender persons from participating in athletics in Ohio and 4) expressing concerns about proposed bills curtailing freedom of speech and assembly by criminalizing activities in vigils, pickets, and protests.
It was a full day of Zoom conferencing and meetings together at the statehouse. Students adapted to the large work environments and displayed resiliency through it all.