The inaugural CRISP Political Boot Camp is now in the history books. The three-day intensive training ended July 12th with an emotional closing session during which attendees shared their challenges and the beginnings of growth, celebrated new friendships, and committed themselves to work in the political arena.
It was a fitting ending to three days of focused coaching by marvelously gifted presenters, many who honed their political skills on the campaign battlegrounds with President Barack Obama. Chief among them was Jason Green who served as the National Voter Registration Director for the 2008 campaign and later as Associate Counsel in the White House. As lead consultant for the Boot Camp, Jason was responsible for bringing in much of the talent.
You may recognize some of the names. Addisu Demissie, Andrea Hailey, David Cohen, Rob Hill, Lynda Tran, Liz Jaffe and Sam Drzymala played integral roles in getting Illinois Senator Barack Obama elected to the presidency, spent time in the White House and are now working across the country helping progressive candidates at all levels of government find the winning formula in their campaigns. Former Congressman Ed Towns brought his years of experience to the effort. Tanya Rhodes Smith, Director of the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work, and CRISP board member Janie Jeffers, who worked in the White House during the Clinton Administration, helped to plan the event and provide training. Kudos to Charlyn Stanberry, Senior Legislative Counsel for Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-NY9) who helped plan the Boot Camp, and to our intern Rachel Neely, an MSW candidate at the University of Texas at Austin who worked feverishly for CRISP during the month of June before moving into the office of Virginia Senator Mark Warner for her summer internship.
I must give a shout-out to Danni Starr who I discovered at an American Nurses Association conference who brought her passion for getting the word out in the media and unashamedly tells her story about her battles with postpartum depression. We also had the good fortune to have Dr. Nancy Humphreys to join us via Skype from her home in Newfoundland. It was quite a treat to have her speak to the Boot Camp attendees and answer their questions. Many of the presenters returned for the final session on Wednesday which Jason calls office hours when attendees had a one-on-one discussion with a trainer or professional. Others participated were Earnestine Elaine Dawson, Santiago Martinez, Lou Pieh, Zina Pierre, Sujeet Rao, Christina Reynolds, Nate Snyder, and Rishi Saghal.
The Boot Campers were an incredible group of mostly social work students who travelled from various states to participate. Jack Hernandez, Kathern Paige, and Patty Ramirez traveled from the University of Southern California. Amy Krings, LaDonna Miller, Meaghan Tomasiewick, and Megan Ammer came from Layola University Chicago. Alyssa Watts, Brita Larson, and Jenny Smith made their way from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Gary Parker, Washington University in St. Louis; Casey Springer, NY State University at Buffalo; Daryl Campbell, Barry University in Florida; Karina Rios, NYU Silver School; Carrie Fowler, Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania; and Laura Bartok, University of Connecticut, travelled more than 100 miles. Locals included Bomaya Kamara, Deborah Woolford, and Terra Hill from the University of Maryland; Kelly Lackey from Virginia Commonwealth University; and Chrycka Harper and Gladys Mendez from Howard University. Paige Reitz commuted from Loudon County, VA and we were graced by the presence of the inimitable Patricia White of the Fund for Social Policy Education and Practice who made her way from New York City and gave a powerful impromptu presentation. Everything wasn’t planned.
The Boot Campers represent the nation in more ways than geography. There were multiple ethnicities, genders, sexual identities, and ages among the group. There may have been a Republican among them, but we never asked. Many got to know each other well because they were required to do at least four one-on-one relational meetings—straight out of the playbook of Saul Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation. We expect this cohort will be the first of many in the coming years who will form a cadre of politically-savvy social workers who find their rightful places in political arenas large and small across the country. They will be available to support each other as needed and will share their knowledge and skills on their campuses and in their communities. As cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
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Written By Charles E. Lewis Jr., Ph.D
CRISP Boot Camp Boosts Political Social Work was originally published @ Charles Lewis – Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy and has been syndicated with permission.