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Change Agents: Social Work Interns Serve Rural Alabama

May 15, 2024 | UA News Center – Written by Jennifer Brady

Tuscaloosa native and graduate student Aisha Winston spent the past academic year serving her local community and others in rural Alabama as part of the UA School of Social Work’s new Black Belt Internship Initiative. 

“Alabama’s Black Belt holds a rich history of migration and integration of social justice and has become a region defined by its dire socioeconomic situation,” she said.

While the health disparities facing the Black Belt are not new, Winston said she sees hope in what its residents, and other advocates, are trying to accomplish. 

The 2023-2024 academic year served as the pilot year for the internship program. In August four graduate students from Alabama’s Black Belt region will return home to address health care disparities. Currently, second-year master’s students chosen for the internship are required to be from that region with plans to put their education into action in those communities.

The students will work with civic leaders, state politicians and families to help find solutions for the area’s underserved population in the arenas of policy, needs and awareness, funding, and grants. Additionally, they will work with those community partners to find the gaps between needs and solutions.