School Wins Corporate Champion Award for Community Service
The USC School of Social Work will receive the Corporate Champion Award from the Los Angeles Opportunities Industrialization Center for extensive community outreach efforts and involvement in the technology literacy program Computers for Families.
LAOIC, a non-profit organization striving to support the city’s underprivileged, annually gives the award to an individual or group whose initiatives have benefited the disadvantaged in the community. The School of Social Work was selected to receive the Corporate Champion Award for its public initiatives that benefit those in the communities surrounding the USC campus, said Chris Floyd, executive director of LAOIC, specifically its participation with the Computers for Families research project.
“It was the door that opened up information about all the work the School of Social Work is doing in the community,” Floyd said.
LAOIC created Computers for Families to close the “digital divide” that can be an employment barrier to those who live in Jordan Downs, a public housing development in the Watts neighborhood of South Los Angeles. The school partnered with LAOIC to evaluate the program that provides a computer and Internet access in the homes of about 200 residents after they have received training from the organization.
A group of 12 Master of Social Work students, led by Vice Dean R. Paul Maiden and Clinical Assistant Professor Juan Araque, conducted surveys to examine the relationship between a family’s computer literacy and their socio-economic standing. After evaluating the Jordan Downs residents for a semester, the students presented their results to the LAOIC board of directors.
“We were able to show them how engaged the kids and parents became once they had access to a computer and the Internet,” Maiden said. “Our evaluation reinforced the work LAOIC had done.”
LAOIC implemented the results to make the program “broader and deeper” than it was before, Floyd said. The organization is currently working on educational software and additional classes on computer literacy to meet the needs residents expressed through the survey.
Maiden said it is an honor for the school to be recognized by LAOIC for the research project, but the real reward comes from the impact it had on Jordan Downs’ residents and the school’s MSW students.
“It’s a huge benefit that the students were able to experience a real-life, hands-on research project that had meaning in the community,” Maiden said. “That’s what made it worthwhile.”
Maiden will receive the award on behalf of the research team and School of Social Work at LAOIC’s Breakfast of Champions ceremony Dec. 7.
- Master of Social Work