HSU Social Work Students Learn to Empower People by Influencing Laws


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 assault.

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.”

About Lisa Futrelle:

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 individual student.

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.



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