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FSU Social Work Majors Witness Advocacy in Action During Annapolis Trip

FSU Social Work Majors Witness Advocacy in Action During Annapolis Trip
Lorna Elegino

When Frostburg State University student Lorna Elegino sat in on a Maryland Senate committee hearing on behavioral health funding, it was more than a class assignment for her in Annapolis.

It was a chance to see how legislation that affects the social work major’s personal health and livelihood is crafted.

“The people who testified for the bill, it brought up a lot of feelings for me. I wanted to get up and stand up to tell them what I thought about it, but I didn’t,” she said smiling.

The non-traditional student decided to leave her mop and gloves behind as a longtime janitor to pursue a career where she could affect the lives of people who may be overlooked. She came to FSU after earning her associate degree at Allegany College of Maryland. She also works at Archway Station in Cumberland, which provides psychiatric rehabilitation services for adults.

“With life struggles and being a janitor for so long, I decided I wanted to do something that wasn’t back-breaking and that helps other people,” the Cumberland resident said. “I’ve had past struggles, and I have mental health issues. I thought I could help other people with that.”

As part of coursework in SOWK 371 Social Policy, students track legislation that affects social issues, whether that be food stamp programs, behavioral health funding, animal rights, insurance policies and more.

“They choose a bill that is debated in either or both the House of Delegates or Maryland Senate, track that bill through the legislative process and have an opportunity to do an analysis of the bill from many different angles,” said FSU Professor of Social Work Dr. Kathy Powell. Students also develop testimony about the bill and write a letter to a lawmaker about their position for or against the bill.

Elegino tracked Senate Bill 497, better known as the Keep the Door Open Act. The bill is meant to provide improved pay for behavioral health providers to keep qualified licensed workers in the state. The bill passed the Senate, and the House version is awaiting a hearing.

The Feb. 25 trip was part of Social Work Students’ Advocacy Day in Annapolis, sponsored by the Maryland Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Students heard from experts and legislators, participated in workshops, witnessed a rally to support behavioral health funding and saw how lawmaking works at the state level as they sat in legislative committee meetings.

Social work majors are in a unique position because they often fight for both the people they care for and their own livelihoods.

“Most of the students that I interact with at Frostburg State are caring people, and they genuinely want to make a difference in the world and in people’s lives,” Powell said. “But what they come to understand is that it’s not enough to provide services to people in need. There’s a need to make sure those services are continued and financially supported and that they’re structured in a way that they do more good than harm in the lives of the people.”

Social work major Maiyah Rose of Capitol Heights found her calling in Annapolis as she was surrounded by dozens of social work students and professionals in the shadows of the State House. The rally influenced her to go more into behavioral health instead of geriatric care.

“Social work is such a broad field; I want to do everything. Hearing everyone out here made me excited,” Rose said. “I already do community service around Frostburg, and now when I come home to Prince George’s County, I feel like I can do more.”

Rose attended a Title I high school in Prince George’s County, where she was mentor for girls in a high poverty environment. That’s where she was motivated to break a generational cycle in her community and family.

“A fire ignited in me where I wanted to ignite a fire in other people who want to do better,” she said.

FSU social work students were able to attend the trip thanks to funding from an FSU Foundation Opportunity Grant. The gift paid for registration fees and transportation.

“Without the Foundation funds, we wouldn’t be able to enable students to have this experience at all,” Powell said.

To make a gift to the FSU Foundation’s Annual Fund, which supports Opportunity Grants, visit and click on Make a Gift, or call 301-687-4161.

To view a video about this story, visit  

- by Charles Schelle


For further information on this release, contact:

Office of News and Media Services
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD  21532-2303

Telephone: 301-687-3171
Fax: 301-687-7589