UTSA social work students help homeless women gain control of their lives

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(April 21, 2014) -- Graduate students in the UTSA College of Public Policy Department of Social Work are facilitating a series of events to empower former homeless women as part of a semester-long service-learning project, Positive Development: Reframing the Future. The events are organized in cooperation with Haven for Hope and the Center for Health Care Services (CHCS).

The social work students are working with a group of women currently receiving benefits from the CHCS In-House Wellness program and living on the Haven for Hope campus. The events are designed to equip participants with the confidence and tools to allow them to live independently in the community by focusing on empowering their "mind, body and spirit."

"Our project, Positive Development, is meant to provide self-esteem building opportunities for this amazing group of women," said Kristin T. Lopez, a graduate student in the Advanced Communities course and a project coordinator. "In the process, we are making human connections by learning about their lives, their strengths, hopes and dreams, and barriers are breaking down in ways that we hope will empower them to achieve their future successes."

Each semester, the Advanced Communities course taught by Robert Ambrosino, senior lecturer in the UTSA Department of Social Work, takes classroom learning into the community through hands-on projects aimed at transforming lives.

The Advanced Communities students are in charge of completing all aspects of the semester-long projects. In the past, students in the Advanced Communities class have worked closely with Haven for Hope on several projects including launching a recreational soccer program, painting a mural on the Haven for Hope campus and the B Heard Music Festival. According to Ambrosino, Positive Development is the most ambitious project any of his classes has ever attempted.

Since the project got underway, the students have organized Zumba and basic self-defense classes, nutrition and cooking classes, and special makeover sessions, which included make-up, hair and spa sessions.

The series of events will conclude May 3 with a red carpet-themed candlelight dinner at First Presbyterian Church. The participants will be treated to free luxury transportation to and from the event and have the opportunity to have a free professional photo taken of them for use in future endeavors.

The dinner also will provide community partners and sponsors who have donated to the cause to meet and engage with the participants. The Advanced Community students will cater the event, and a motivational speaker is scheduled. For more information, email Robert Ambrosino.

Positive Development: Reframing the Future is one of the first projects to be featured on UTSA's new crowd-funding website, Launch UTSA, through the UTSA Development Office. For information on how to contribute to the project, visit the UTSA Positive Development Launch website.

>> View photos and learn more about Positive Development events.

>> Learn more about the UTSA College of Public Policy and the UTSA Department of Social Work and Master of Social Work program.