When Hardin-Simmons University student Lisa Futrelle leaves her
full-time human resources job at the university, she heads to her volunteer job
– something she calls “horse therapy.” As part of the HSU social work class she is taking this semester, Futrelle will
spend a minimum of 30 hours assisting licensed therapists with animal assisted occupational
therapy -- in simple terms, walking a horse bearing a four-year-old
child with disabilities.
“I have always enjoyed helping people, but I want to do more
than help,” said Futrelle. “I want to empower people with tools to help
themselves,” she said, pointing out that her work as a volunteer is empowering her
to realize a life-long pursuit.
Futrelle is one
of the 19 representatives from Hardin-Simmons University to attend the Social
Work Student Day at the Texas Legislature. During the one-day Austin trip Lisa
absorbed information on how to advocate, through the Texas Legislature, regarding
state policies and laws that affect the life of a wide range of people.
“Speakers and panelist provide lecture and question and
answer time in educating students on subjects such as how to speak to a
legislator, testifying to the House and/or Senate, how to assist others in
advocating for themselves,” said Melissa Million, a member of the Texas Association
of Social Work Deans and Directors, and HSU associate professor and social work
department head. “Perhaps, most importantly, the day helps students learn what
research needs to take place in preparation for such interactions with
lawmakers,” said Milliorn
Students and faculty from HSU shared the bus to Austin with
social work students from two other area universities to learn how to influence
policy, which included a “Speak Out” session on the south steps of the Capitol.
There, two HSU students, John Vaughn and Julie Reed, both from Abilene, spoke
on issues related to veterans’ mental health benefits and abortion related to sexual
Students also heard from fellow social worker and House Representative
Elliott Naishtat as he encouraged students to continue learning how to
participate effectively in advocacy policy.
Futrelle says she
became interested in social work when she was just 19-years-old. “I have always
had a passion to help, but as I have learned in my class, it’s not just about
helping. I think it is interesting to see how policy works with the current
social justice movements, how laws are forming from these movements, and how each
of us can participate as individuals.”
Lisa and her husband
have two daughters and one son. She says her passion lies in helping to reform
an education system that forces educators to focus on numbers, rather than each
Photo: John Vaughan (spoke on Veterans mental health issues)
and Julie Reed (spoke on abortion and sexual assault issues). Other
participants are: faculty Melissa Milliorn (serving as faculty sponsor and
TASWDD planning committee member) and Kerri Fisher (as faculty coordinator and
chaperone for the event); students Donald Dolton, Lisa Futrelle, Diana Hall,
Maygen Hansard, Angelica Hernandez, Natalie Johnson, Allison Keenum, Jacki
Ledbetter, Katie McCoy, Stormy McDonald, Evariste Musonera, Julie Reed, Kia
Shepherd, and Jacqueline Thorman.