July 01, 2020

NCSSS students gathering supplies

NCSSS graduate students deliver supplies to those in need in the D.C. area during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

In June, Catholic University’s National Catholic School of Social Service (NCSSS) was awarded a five-year, $3.2 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) through the Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students Program.

With this grant, NCSSS will improve the quality of and access to mental health services in medically underserved communities in and around Washington, D.C., by recruiting, supporting, and training individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds as future social workers. Per HRSA’s qualifications, “disadvantaged” is defined as students who are the first in their family to go to college; come from a family that receives public assistance; are from low-income households; or have a physical, learning, or mental impairment.

“For more than 100 years, the National Catholic School of Social Service (NCSSS)  has been preparing students to go forth and reach the marginalized. This grant is important as it fits with the mission of the school that prioritizes responding to the needs of the vulnerable by preparing social workers to work towards the improvement of mental health services in underserved communities,” says Jo Anne Regan, NCSSS dean.

NCSSS will use the $640,000 per year to boost recruitment and retention of full-time students in its Master’s of Social Work (MSW) programs. Scholarships of up to $40,000 per year will be awarded based on each student’s financial need.

The school also plans to enhance recruitment of racial and ethnic minority students, who are historically underrepresented in health professional careers. The school will partner with local colleges and universities, including historically black colleges and universities, to promote the scholarship to undergraduate students and work with local health and human services organizations to recruit paraprofessionals interested in pursuing a master’s degree. Sixteen scholarships will be awarded per year, with the first round of scholarships awarded in fall 2020.

“I am thrilled to have worked with many of my NCSSS colleagues, who brought their expertise to our discussions about this grant application and made it stronger the more we reflected on how to craft our proposal,” says Christine Sabatino, chair of the MSW program and faculty principal investigator for the grant. “I am always inspired by the collegial climate in our school.”

The project team — which also includes NCSSS’s Director of Admission and Financial Aid Aileen Worrell, Director of Field Education and Professional Development Roslynn Scott-Adams, and Director of Field Education (Online MSW Program) Danielle Stokes-Parker —  will lead NCSSS efforts to prepare and train scholarship recipients to work within primary care or medically underserved communities upon graduation.

Catholic University’s Institutional Partnerships Division of University Advancement worked closely with Sabatino on the grant submission. 

“In the context of COVID-19 and ongoing racial social injustice, now more than ever there is a demand for well-trained, high-quality, diverse, and compassionate social workers. These scholarships will help NCSSS meet the current and emerging needs of communities,” said Lesa-Kaye Holtham, senior associate director of institutional partnerships. “This grant is also reflective of an institutional culture of faculty and staff who are committed to preparing our students to make an impact on our community.”

Sabatino said the HRSA grant award — which was awarded to only 79 programs across the country — is quite an honor. The funding will enable NCSSS to continue its long tradition of training professionals to serve the physical and mental health challenges of the most vulnerable individuals, families, and communities.

“More importantly, we are admitting students for the on-campus and online MSW graduate degree, especially in this era of COVID-19, who might not otherwise have the opportunity because they cannot come to campus,” Sabatino said. “This grant also helps us to promote the mission of NCSSS to ‘educate students from diverse faiths and cultures who in their professional endeavors will embody the values of social justice, service, and scholarship.’”

For more information on scholarship eligibility and the application process, please
contact Aileen Worrell at worrell@cua.edu.

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