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Jill Head Shot8.7.2017

2.5 million youth in the U.S are homeless, accounting for 1 in every 30 youth.  Unaccompanied homeless youth - those not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian account for 1.7 million of the 2.5 million. Although all homeless youth are at risk, unaccompanied youth are vulnerable by virtue of often having to live in unsafe, temporary situations, including cars, parks, the homes of other people, shelters, and motels. In South Carolina, school districts identified 14,360 homeless students during the 2015–16 academic year. At the local level, Richland County School Districts in central South Carolina had 248 unaccompanied youth.

For the past 40 years, Palmetto Place in Columbia, SC has sheltered youth facing abuse, abandonment, neglect, or homelessness. After a recent expansion, Palmetto Place now has two houses and more than 50 beds to house the most vulnerable children and teens. Jill Lawson, 2010 MSW graduate, has been with Palmetto Place for over 12 years. Serving as a volunteer, board member, part-time counselor, and now as Executive Director, she has helped many teens develop into successful, independent adults. The CoSW prepares social workers, like Jill, to not only consider individuals’ internal struggles but also to help examine their relationships, family history, work environment, community environment, and the structures and policies that impact their lives to identify ways to help address a problem or challenge.

Recently, Midlands Anchor featured the stories of two formerly homeless Palmetto Place residents as these ladies prepare for their next big steps; one enrolling at Midlands Tech, the other pursuing an MSW at the College of Social Work. Lawson says, “I’ve had lots of kids go into the military, job corps, and college after high school graduation. I can’t describe how proud I am to see one of my “kids” enter the CoSW graduate school. I have no doubt that she will do great things and move mountains! I am excited to now be her colleague and work together in the social work field.”

Since 1969, the CoSW has maintained a commitment to excellent education, meaningful research, and service to the community, all of which continue to be at the core of all what the college does. This is made possible by long-standing ties with South Carolina communities.

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