Social Work and Community Immersion


Community Immersion Experience Hilario Galvan University of Southern California Policy and Practice in Social Service Organizations SOWK 534 Mike Jackson, PhD September 27, 2011 Introduction In many social work programs the concept of community immersion is an important aspect of their program and beneficial to the students. The University of Southern California (USC) and its School of Social Work is no exception to this training, thus community immersion is a mandatory requirement for accepted students. Community immersion gives students the opportunity to explore the idea of community and concepts of community.

Netting, Kettner, and McMurtry (2008) define community as “that combination of social units and systems that perform the major social functions relevant to meeting people’s needs on a local level” (p. 130). People live in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and across many countries as a result, people’s residences are diverse and vary in location; thus, social workers must be aware of the types of communities that exist in societies.

Geographical, identification and interest, and collective relationships of an individual are different types of communities social workers may encounter and provide social services.

Netting et al. (2008) state, a geographical community is a place that meets people’s needs for sustenance, such as neighborhoods and cities; communities of identification and interest (functional communities) are a nongeographic community based on identification and interest for example, religious groups or ethnicity (p. 131-133). Last, a community based on collective relationships of an individual is a type of community that offers importance and meaning to an individual’s identity; for example, professional colleagues and personal friends give meaning to one’s identity (Netting et al. 2008, p. 133). From the different types of community mentioned, the City of Compton will be analyzed from a geographical community perspective; in addition, systems theory complements the type of community Compton portrays, this theory helps one understand a macro (large-scale) approach to Compton. Systems theory contends multiple parts exist of any entity (may represent a group or a community) and entities are systems with interconnecting components, such as an international corporation or a family (Netting et al. , 2008, p. 11).

Furthermore, “a system is a set of elements that are orderly an interrelated to make a functional whole” (Zastro & Kirst-Ashman, 2010, p. 21). During the community immersion, it was noticeable that Compton had multiple parts to existing entities that have an interrelated relationship for Compton to function as a whole. For example, representing the City Council was Dr. Willie Jones, Councilman District 4, who spoke to one’s group at city hall. He stated public safety, economic development, and partnering with the local schools for the benefit of youth in Compton were his priorities. In regard, to systems theory Dr.

Jones, public safety, economic development, and partnering with schools are all interconnected systems that work as a whole to serve the people in the community, but Compton also relies on and need outside resource entities, such as state and federal funds. Social workers must understand communities and the interrelated relationship that exists between people and their community. This notion is important to social workers because, at some point or another, throughout their career one will encounter a large-scale intervention is the best route to a needed or a problem in the community (Netting et al. 2008, p. 3). To implement macro intervention social workers need to grasp the community’s history, beliefs, ethics, and values. This paper will briefly examine Compton through a general description of the community immersion, community structure, and community characteristics. General Description of the Immersion Community The City of Compton fits the geographical community type because the city varies “in how it meets people’s needs, how social interactions are patterned, and how collective identity is perceived” (Netting et al. 2008, p. 131). For instance, one’s group was invited to observe the Salvation Army’s operation, walk through the property and take notice of the programs offered to meet the various needs of the community. The Salvation Army is a Christian faith-based organization that offers a professional size basketball court for youth to use after school, provide resources to help families transition into stable housing and increased income levels. This ystem also offer care and aid for homeless people, and the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARCs) help those with drug and alcohol addiction. These are some of various means this city meets its people’s needs (“Salvation Army,” August, 2011). The geographical boundaries of Compton are bordered by Willowbrook on the north, northwest is West Compton, on the west is Carson city, on the southwest is Rancho Dominguez on the south Long Beach city, on the southeast Paramount city, and East Compton on the east, last, the city of Lynwood is on the northeast (Google Maps, 2011).

According to the United States Census Bureau (2010), Some of Compton’s demographics are as follows: Compton is 2000 (square miles), Population in 2010 is 96,455, the median age is 28 years old, Hispanic or Latino population is 62,669 or 65. 0%, White population is 24,942 or 25. 9%, Black or African American population is 31,688 or 32. 9%, unemployed 11. 3%, employed 16,299, average income 18,394 with families; language spoken at home other than English 49,086, and college or graduate school is 5,588 of the total population.

During the 1950s to early 1970s Compton city was a commercial district for many companies; in the late 70s Compton began a major shift change, robberies and constant gang violence spread from Los Angeles to Compton. The main criminals on the street were the Bloods and Crips; thus, business moved and avoided problems (Camarillo, 1991, p. 79). During the late 80s early 90s Mayor Omar Bradley helped Compton metamorphosized slowly; he implemented a new Compton Town Center welcomed the blue line railroad in Los Angeles to run through Compton (Camarillo, 1991, p. 79).

These positives steps lead to the current theme of the city called “Birthing a New Compton. ” This is the phrase many residents, business owners, and members of the city council said in the community immersion. The Salvation Army representatives explained the backbone of the theme is to restore pride, quality of life and economic growth in the city and its residents. Community Structure Compton has a main political body that comprises of Eric J. Perrodin, Mayor, Janna Zurita, Councilwoman District 1, Lillie Dobson, Councilwoman District 2, Yvonne Arceneaux, Councilwoman District 3, and Dr.

Willie O. Jones, Councilman District 4. Walking through the streets of Compton interviewing people, the question how they feel about their political leaders? Loraine, a community activist, stated, “I’ve been waiting for the city council to do the right thing for 40 years. ” After interviewing several people on the street, one concluded, the city council is not very well liked, and the council has yet to create good paying jobs in the city. On the other hand, the meeting with Dr. Willie O. Jones and other representatives of the city viewed the Compton as having well-paying jobs.

On a side note, through observation, the city has approximately 50% or more of population that is Hispanic or Latino and no representation seemed to be present on the city council. Churches in this community are central social structures that symbolize hope for the people of Compton. Many of the working peoples no matter status or position in the community, such as a business owner, cahier clerk, or a security guard they had a Christian based outlook on life. The repeating theme, from people interviewed on the street, was no matter what happened or is occurring in Compton never lose your faith in Jesus Christ.

Some people who were dependent on welfare explained the assistance was not enough and help to get a job was decent but getting a job means getting a low paying job and one could not survive on this job alone. According to Seccombe (2011) welfare was established in 1935 and originally called Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) and the primary focus was single mothers (p. 29). Today, many single mothers may need help from government agencies, but with support from entities, such as friends, churches, and neighbors that are interconnected single parents are able to survive. Community Characteristics In the city hall meeting Dr.

Jones and city representatives stated Compton was recently designated as an “entrepreneurial hot spot. ” The city’s Planning and Economic Development department provides a business assistance program consisting of a comprehensive mix of resources to small business owners and entrepreneurs (City of Compton, 2011). Indeed one may deduce Compton is a business hot spot, as one walked the streets of the city it was obvious per the signs reputable stores catered to the residents of the community. Noted stores, such as Target, Home Depot, Starbucks, Best Buy, and The Burlington Coat Factory; in addition, Derek R.

Hull, Planning and Economic Development, director expressed at the city hall meeting that the grocery chains Ralphs and Food 4 Less, subsidiaries of Krogers, is headquartered in Compton, and Gelson’s Market, a subsidiary of Arden Group, Inc. , is also established in Compton. As mentioned before Dr. Jones emphasized education is a priority for him and to partner up with schools for the benefit of children resonated in one’s mind. To partner with the schools he will probably have to take into account the large-scale task it demands.

The Compton Unified School District (CUSD) provides public education for grades K-12; the district is comprised of 24 elementary schools, eight middle schools, three high schools, and one adult school, which also serves as an alternative school and El Camino Compton Education Center offer community college courses for those seeking to enter a four-year degree program (City of Compton, 2011). An important characteristic of Compton is many of the social services provided with in the community come from the Salvation Army, churches, and the cities’ court provides help in properly filling out legal documents.

Despite all the help Compton’s residents have it is not enough, the issues and problems the city deals with is also their weakness. Poverty and education are the leading problems that become Compton’s weaknesses. Other issue this community must address is the prostitution, and awareness of the major cultural change occurring in the city. Conclusion This community immersion provided an atmosphere for first-year students, at USC, to meet their new classmates, faculty, and administrative staff members in a relaxed and informal setting.

Social workers must be aware of the types of communities that exist in societies because a macro-level intervention is the correct approach to a need or a problem. The community immersion at city hall revealed that community politicians, citizens, and the agencies that provide social services, all perceive the cities needs and solutions differently. Thus, as one prepares to be a future social worker, helping a community encompasses awareness of cultural history, focus on the challenges communities present, and be extremely resourceful, especially when it comes to money for public use.

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