James Madison University

A Rally to Remember

PHOTO: JMU Students

For the past 32 years Rally in the Valley has brought together social work students from a number of accredited programs. The purpose of the event is to bring social work students together in order to create a network of professionals. During this professional conference students are encouraged to talk with each other about graduate schools, program requirements, and social work practice.

Senior social major, Sheria Pettis says, “It is cool to meet students from other social work schools to find out how their field placements work.” Rally in the Valley provides an environment for discussion between social work students and professionals already working in the field. “I feel motivated now to apply for grad school after talking to graduate school representatives,” says senior Emily Johnson.

This year the theme for the Rally was recognizing and understanding transitions from student to workers. Students heard from Virginia graduate school programs in a panel style session. Former students, who are currently working or are transitioning into graduate school, answered questions from the students about their transition. JMU graduate, Rick Lackey advised students to “be flexible” and remember that doing the little things is important to social work practice, like “spending two hours filling water balloons.” 

Later that evening, students gathered around a campfire and began sharing what transition, event, or feeling led them to social work. Each school was represented, and slowly a student from one school could relate with another student from a different school. Without realizing it we were opening the doors to one of our core competencies, and forming human relationships. We talked about the various reasons we decided to be social workers. Some shared stories of family or personal events, while others expressed their passion for a particular population. In the end, we were all students of social work around a bonding campfire.

The next day students and faculty filed into the conference room to hear from the keynote speaker, Darla Spence Coffey from the Council on Social Work Education. One theme of Koffe’s presentation was to remember to always let people know you are a social worker. She expressed the importance of always practicing and educating others about social work.

As social workers we will go through several transitions in life. But regardless of these transitions, we will always be social workers.