What began as an effort to honor a dedicated instructor has become a 12-year partnership between UC’s School of Social Work and The Children’s Home of Cincinnati—and an important form of support for aspiring social workers.
The Joe Hall scholarship was formed to commemorate the work of Joseph Hall, an associate professor in the school of social work from 1979 to 1992.
After serving as the first executive director of the Urban League of Cincinnati, Hall worked as a field liaison with The Children’s Home and served on the nonprofit’s board of trustees.
The Children’s Home developed the scholarship at Hall’s retirement as a way to honor his contributions to the field and his commitment to advancing education for African-American students.
Since 2000, 24 students in UC’s Master’s of Social Work program have benefited from his legacy, receiving a $6,000 stipend each year of their program and the opportunity to do their field placement at The Children’s Home.
"There’s no substitute for practical work with kids and families,” says Ellen Katz, The Children’s Home president and CEO. "The internships give students the opportunity to apply the theory and concepts they learn in the classroom to real cases.”
She says those cases can be often challenging for even experienced social workers.
Founded in 1864, The Children’s Home provides education and mental health treatment for children facing significant social, behavioral and learning challenges. Last year, it served more than 6,600 children and families with over 20 programs and services.
"The children and families in our programs tend to be high-risk,” says Katz. "Often, they’re living in poverty and have experienced severe trauma, abuse or neglect. There is no better means for MSW students to build their capacity for doing clinical work than by treating these high-risk cases.”
For recipient Lenora Johnson, the Joe Hall scholarship enabled her to pursue her graduate degree full time, without taking on additional loans.
"I had been working with child protective investigations in Florida and wanted to specialize in mental health treatment,” says Johnson. "Eventually I would like to go into policy work, but therapy is something I absolutely love.”
In her second and final year at UC, Johnson is balancing a full load of classes, work with the National Association of Social Workers’ political action committee and her internship at The Children’s Home as a school-based therapist.
"The internship at the Children Home has given me a wonderful opportunity—not just the scholarship but the field work as well,” says Johnson. "The supervision and mentoring I’ve gotten has been pretty much outstanding and the support is overwhelming. It’s just a great place for me to be.”
Recipient Joe Coates is in his first year of the Master's in Social Work program. With a graduate degree in education, he hopes to gain professional versatility as a licensed social worker.
At The Children's Home, he runs therapy groups for adolescent boys, as well as running a coed group with this field instructor. He also works individually with some teenagers at Scarlet Oaks career campus.
"I've had previous experience working with children, but this gives me much more exposure to working with individuals and groups," he says. "The Children's Home has done a really good job getting me involved in care—they've made me part of the team, not just a trainee."
UC associate professor of social work Gary Dick, PhD, worked at the Children’s Home for 16 years before coming to UC, and witnessed Hall’s passion for education firsthand: "No matter how busy he was, Joe always took time to meet with his students. He made them feel like he had all the time in the world for them.”
Now, he says the scholarship is a significant gift from the Children’s Home and an important way to support minority students in higher education.
"The Children’s Home is a great agency and an incredible trainer and employer of social workers in the area,” says Dick.
For Katz, the scholarship serves as a way to welcome these students not only into the Children’s Home, but into the practice and field of social work.
"This field is not exactly lucrative, so all of the motivation for these students is intrinsic,” she says. "The work they do is stressful enough—we’re happy just to be able to help them continue in the field and know there’s generosity within it. We’re proud that, as a charity, we can be charitable as well.”