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October 31, 2023, Adrian, Michigan – Siena Heights University undergraduate social work students and clinical mental health master’s degree students now have a dedicated space to practice their counseling skills and receive feedback. On October 14, 2023, during Homecoming weekend, the University dedicated the Sister Peg Albert Social Work Simulation and Practice Lab.
A classroom in the lower level of the science wing of Sacred Heart Hall was renovated to create the social work classroom and lab. The lab was named in honor of Sister Peg, who retired in July 2023 after serving 17 years as President of Siena Heights University. Before serving in administration, Sister Peg ministered as a social worker, particularly with college students.
“I’m humbled and honored to have the Social Work Simulation and Practice Lab named in my honor,” said Sister Peg, who could not attend the dedication. “Social work is a much-needed profession today with all the mental health issues people are experiencing, particularly since COVID. Siena Heights social workers will be well trained, given the opportunity to learn by using the lab and receiving feedback from others.”
Sister Peg said she “loved every minute” that she practiced social work, especially with college students. “I knew that my time with them was sacred because of their willingness to share their deepest thoughts and emotions with me … I used my social work skills throughout my whole life, whatever I was doing.”
Douglas Palmer, PhD, President of Siena Heights University, said the University was founded “to bring light in places that were cast in darkness – the light of education but also the light of service. I can think of no better dedication for Sister Peg, nor better outreach of our mission here at Siena Heights, than training the future generations of social workers to go out into the world and bring light into the darkness.”
Elizabeth Davis, Director of the Social Work program, noted that, of about 12 social work programs in Michigan, Siena Heights University is one of only five that offers students a simulation and practice lab – and one of only two bachelor’s degree programs to do so. “This has been a dream for seven years, and it has finally come to fruition,” she said. “Typically, students would have to wait to get to the MSW level to have such a space …. We are really on the cutting edge here.”
The lab includes a classroom with two smaller rooms in the back: one replicating a typical social worker’s office and the other a home situation. Students have the opportunity to practice their skills in these rooms. Cameras will allow classmates to watch the practice on an 86-inch screen and offer feedback. Another portion of the lab includes a circle of chairs, allowing students to practice leading groups.
Susan Shelangoskie, Vice President of Academic Affairs – who brought Elizabeth’s proposal to the President’s Cabinet for approval – noted the hard work that Elizabeth put into the project, from cleaning the floor to preparing the room to be painted. “She has put a lot of sweat equity into this, as well as a lot of her intellectual skill and expertise,” she said.
Sister Sharon Weber, OP, who served with Sister Peg as Vice President of Academic Affairs, led in the blessing of the lab. “We ask you to bless the individuals, the faculty, and students who will use this space to teach and learn the skills that will help them and the many lives they will touch in the future,” she prayed. “Most especially, we ask you to bless the relationships that the skills in social work and counseling will develop here and through many years into the future through the work of our future alums.”
Sister Sharon also prayed for blessings on Sister Peg, “for whom we dedicate this space and who brought her own social work education and skills to benefit so many in her lifetime, and especially in her time in leadership here at Siena Heights.”
After the blessing, the approximately 35 Social Work faculty members and students, administrators, alumnae, and friends stayed to enjoy refreshments and tour the new lab before participating in other Homecoming events.
February 1, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Children from Adrian who suffer abuse will no longer have to bear the added trauma of repeating their story countless times to law enforcement officials and counselors, thanks to the new Child Advocacy Center (CAC) of Catholic Charities of Jackson, Lenawee, and Hillsdale County.
Catholic Charities showcased its new facility and hosted an official ribbon-cutting ceremony January 26. Attending were Catholic Charities staff and board members, as well as interested and concerned community members – including Sister Pam Millenbach, OP, who ministers at the facility, and several other Adrian Dominican Sisters. Before and after the formal ceremony, community members had the opportunity to tour the new facility.
The Adrian-based CAC serves as a base where professionals – law enforcement officers, representatives from the prosecutor’s office, counselors, and public health officials – can coordinate their efforts so traumatized children only have to tell their story once. Meetings between the child and a forensic interviewer are videotaped so other concerned agencies have access to the information revealed in the interview. The multi-disciplined team can then work together to decide on the most effective ways to help the child and his or her family, and to proceed with investigations and legal action against the abuser.
The CAC is a collaborative effort of the Lenawee County law enforcement agencies, the Lenawee County Prosecutor’s Office, Child Protective Services, ProMedica, the University of Michigan Child Protective Team, and Catholic Charities. The CAC also received financial support from local organizations, including the Adrian Dominican Sisters, in the form of a Ministry Trust grant.
Sister Pam, who ministers in foster care for Catholic Charities in Adrian, affirmed the need to limit the trauma that children often face when repeating the story of their abuse. The CAC facility is designed not only to streamline the process of informing professionals of the child’s experience, but also to help the child and family members feel safe. The building includes a sunny, brightly colored playroom where children can relax and feel safe, Sister Pam explained.
Sister Pam noted that children have already made use of the new CAC facility.
Sister Barbara Jean Quincey, OP, a member of the Board of Catholic Charities and a resident of Jackson, Michigan, spoke of the effectiveness of the CAC program, which has been in place in Jackson for about two years. CAC “has made it easier for the kids because they haven’t had to tell their story to six different people,” Sister Barbara explained. “[The professionals] all watch one interview. It’s wonderful that they can do this as a seamless garment,” she said.
Sister Barbara estimated that about 250 abused children and their families are served by the CAC in Jackson every year. “Jackson and Adrian are both full of abused children,” she said. “It breaks my heart and I’m so glad that Catholic Charities is able to do something about that and that the community is able to help them.” Retired after 46 years as a teacher, she said she is very dedicated to children and is appalled by the way they are so often treated.
As a member of the Board, Sister Barbara is involved in many of Catholic Charities’ programs, most notably its fundraising efforts. Events such as the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day lunch box sale raise money to offset the many services that the organization provides for free to those who can’t afford them.
“We don’t ask what their religion is,” Sister Barbara said. “It’s Catholic Charities, but it’s for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, if you can afford our services or can’t. If you need them, we will help you.”
Clockwise, from top: From left, Sisters Tarianne DeYonker, OP, Attracta Kelly, OP, and Jacqueline Phillips, OP, enjoy the view from the porch of the new Child Advocacy Center facility. The playroom at the new Child Advocacy Center gives children a cheerful place to relax and have fun. State Representative Bronna Kahle (R-Dist. 57) presents a certificate recognizing the new Child Advocacy Center.