Save the Date for the Celebration of Social Work Awards on March 28, 2024!
The purpose of the Social Work Awards is to celebrate the important work of social workers, raise awareness for the profession of social work, and highlight the tenants of social work ethics and values.
SOCIAL WORKER OF THE YEAR
The Social Worker of the Year Award recognizes the commitment and significant achievements of an outstanding member of our profession. Individuals considered for this award demonstrate exceptional professional qualities.
- Be a member in good standing of NASW-NYS;
- Have at least 5 years of social work practice experience;
- Demonstrate outstanding leadership qualities (examples include demonstrated ability to communicate vision, inspire motivation, provide support, and promote goal achievement);
- Exemplify professional social work values and ethics as defined by the NASW Code of Ethics in chosen method and level of practice;
- Be committed to implementing anti-oppressive practice and exhibit a consistent focus on social, environmental and/or economic justice which includes a and
- Contribute to the public’s knowledge and understanding of social work
BSW STUDENT OF THE YEAR AWARD
The BSW Social Work Student of the Year award honors a NYS Baccalaureate-level social work student who has demonstrated commitment to the profession, academic excellence and an active pursuit of the values, knowledge, and skills of the social work profession as defined by the NASW Code of Ethics. Current students as well as those who have graduated within six months of the nomination deadline are eligible for this award.
- Demonstrate leadership skills and involvement within the University/College or greater community setting;
- Engage in work or volunteer commitments that emphasize a strong desire and capacity to make a difference in the lives of others; ;
- Espouse professional social work values and ethics through the use of social work knowledge and skills which includes anti-oppressive practice and a focus on social, environmental and/or economic justice; and
- Demonstrate a commitment to advance human rights, take risks and advocate for improved human services and justice.
MERITORIOUS HUMAN SERVICE ORGANIZATION
The Meritorious Human Service Organization Award honors a human service organization that demonstrates a strong commitment to the community of services within the geographic region of NASW-NYS.
The organization must:
- Be in good standing with NASW;
- Be in operation 5 years or more;
- Improved the quality of life in the community it serves or on those affected by the issue it addresses;
- Have developed innovative approaches for the provision of more effective services and/or made a significant contribution to an issue of concern to the social work profession; and
- Made a demonstrable difference in such areas as advocacy, policy, practice, program development, administration, and /or innovative research.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
The Lifetime Achievement Award honors a social worker who has devoted his/her/their careers to the social work profession and has been exceptional in their promotion of social justice, equity, inclusion, and diversity.
- Be a member in good standing of NASW-NYS;
- Exhibits repeated outstanding achievement in the field of social work and have at least 15 years of social work practice experience;
- Exemplify professional social work ethics as defined by the NASW Code of Ethics;
- Demonstrate a history of exceptional leadership qualities, (examples include demonstrated ability to communicates vision, inspire motivation, provide support, and promote goal achievement);
- Exhibit creativity and courage in focusing on social, environmental and/or economic justice, and implement anti-oppressive practice principles and strategies; and
MSW STUDENT OF THE YEAR AWARD
The MSW Social Work Student of the Year award honors a NYS Master level social work student who has demonstrated academic excellence, commitment to the profession, and active pursuit of the values, knowledge, and skills of the social work profession as defined by the NASW Code of Ethics. Current students as well as those who have graduated within six months of the nomination deadline are eligible for this award.
- Demonstrate leadership skills and involvement within the University/College or greater community setting;
- Engage in work or volunteer commitments that emphasize a strong desire and capacity to make a difference in the lives of others;
- Apply a systems perspective in all aspects of practice, promote the well-being of those served, and effectively advocate with and on behalf of others; and
- Espouse professional social work values through the use of social work knowledge and skills which includes anti-oppressive practice, a focus on social, environmental and/or economic justice; and
- Advance human rights, take risks and advocate for improved human services and justice.
PUBLIC ELECTED OFFICIAL OF THE YEAR
The Public Elected Official of the Year Award honors an elected official who demonstrates leadership and a strong commitment to the values which underpin social justice and who has shown leadership in public policy issues important to social work.
The award recipient must:
- Be an elected official serving, at the time of nomination, in public office at the local, state, or national level;
- Make a significant contribution to public service while in office;
- Demonstrate leadership in advancing public policy in civil and human rights, and/or in social welfare towards the promotion of social justice, equity, inclusion, and diversity; and
- Demonstrate leadership on behalf of the protection and advancement of social work practice.
CHAMPION OF JUSTICE AWARD
The Champion of Justice Award honors an individual who has made significant strides working on a prominent social, environmental and/or economic justice issue. The individual considered for this award pursues social change, with and on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups at the individual, group, community, or system level. As part of their efforts, nominees promote sensitivity to and knowledge about cultural and ethnic diversity while striving to ensure equitable access to needed resources; promote equality of opportunity; eliminate oppressive structural and institutional barriers to ensure the protection of human rights; and encourage meaningful participation in decision making for all people above and beyond the standard commitment.
- Display a strong and continual commitment to anti-oppressive practice, and social, environmental and/or economic justice;
- Pursue social change with and on behalf of those served;
- Exhibit creativity and courage in focusing on social, environmental and/or economic justice, and implement anti-oppressive practice principles and strategies which include a willingness to advance human rights, take risks and advocate for improved human services and justice; and
- Demonstrate compassion and leadership to promote equitable access, equality of opportunity, the protection of human rights and meaningful participation in decision-making.
DOCTORAL STUDENT OF THE YEAR AWARD
The Doctoral Student of the Year Award is presented to a NYS PhD or DSW social work candidate who has demonstrated academic excellence, commitment to the profession, and active pursuit of the values, knowledge, and skills of the social work profession as defined by the NASW Code of Ethics. Current students as well as those who have graduated within six months of the nomination deadline are eligible for this award.
- Demonstrate outstanding leadership skills and involvement within the University/College or greater community setting;
- Consistent engagement in work or volunteer commitments that emphasize a strong desire and capacity to make a difference in the lives of others;
- Implement professional social work values and ethics through the use of social work knowledge and skills which includes anti-oppressive practice and a focus on social, environmental and/or economic justice;
- Take risks and advocate for improved human services and justice; and
- Demonstrate knowledge, research and/or practice to ensure the pursuit of protection of human rights and the elimination of oppressive structural and institutional barriers to justice.
EMERGING SOCIAL WORK LEADER
The Emerging Social Work MSW Leader award honors a MSW NASW-NYS member at the beginning phase of his/her/their career who has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities commensurate with their level of education.
- Be an NASW-NYS member in good standing;
- Have a MSW degree from an accredited graduate social work program;
- Have five or fewer years of post-degree social work practice experience;
- Contribute to the growth and visibility of the social work profession; and
- Have demonstrated social work ethics and values in the commitment to make a difference in such areas as:
- Community service/leadership
- Social Work Practice
- Management and Leadership.
Learn more about our past award winners!
2023 Social Work Award Winners
Lifetime Achievement Award
Marcia Schwartzman Levy, LCSW-R
Marcia Schwartzman Levy was already a successful educator and corporate trainer when, in her early 40’s, she experienced the unexpected illness and death of her late husband, Alain. As a new widow with three young children to raise, she looked for ways to integrate her experiences and find a meaningful path forward. That path took her back to her alma mater, Columbia University, where she had previously been a Presidential Fellow and doctoral candidate in the department of English and Comparative Literature, but where she now enrolled in the School of Social Work, having seen first hand the importance of bereavement and trauma services. Read More
While that may have been a “late” start, it was the beginning of a decades long career in healthcare, providing direct trauma-informed, crisis and supportive services, supervising and training others, and promoting the profession of social work to countless interns, other healthcare professionals, and the general public. Her career in a municipal hospital system started in the outpatient HIV clinic, where disparities in life opportunities were obvious among the many different patients served, before the phrase “social determinants of health” was on everybody’s lips. She later became Social Work Supervisor in the Surgical Intensive Care and Burn Intensive Care units. Additionally, she served as Educational Coordinator, planning continuing education; leading seminars on inter-professional education; designing and teaching courses on clinical thinking and writing; and serving as liaison to multiple Schools of Social Work in the screening, placing and training of interns. In addition, she developed and led monthly joint training and support sessions for the interns at two hospitals.
In her initial post retirement career, Marcia became an Independent Living Donor Advocate at a large teaching hospital, where part of her responsibility was to advocate for equitable care for organ donors and recipients, focusing on ethical and unbiased treatment. While there she took on many leadership positions, including founding, developing and chairing a Clinical Supervision group to teach other clinical social workers how to supervise new social workers; setting up supervision schedules; recruiting new supervisors; and then providing supervision to the supervisors, with the mission of elevating all LMSW’s to the highest level of licensure, and the highest level of care within each patient encounter. She developed and co-chaired a hospital wide Bereavement Committee, which was on emergency call to provide services to staff alongside hospital chaplains. She became the facilitator of Schwartz Rounds—a nationally recognized set of seminars where staff can process the emotional impact of their work in a private and non judgmental setting—which she led alongside the former Dean of the medical school. Additionally, she was one of only two non-nurses nationally to become a certified trainer for Creative Healthcare Management Relationship-Based Training, designed to promote equitable and bias free care among primary nursing.
Marcia’s commitment to her profession and NASW are evidenced by her lengthy volunteer history with NASW- NYS, as membership committee member, Board Member at Large, Secretary to the Board, and finally President of the Board. She is currently a moderator of the Private Practice listserv of NASW-NYS, Private Practice Direct. She maintains a private practice in Larchmont, NY, focusing primarily on grief, loss and bereavement. Finally, she is a proud mother of 3 amazing adults and their 3 wonderful partners, grandmother of 4 grandchildren who keep her learning, and grateful wife to her partner of 29 years, Dr. Mark Cannon, who keeps her laughing.
Public Elected Official of the Year
Senator Samra G. Brouk
Senator Samra G. Brouk has the privilege of representing the residents of New York's 55th District, which includes portions of Monroe County, including: East and West Irondequoit, Webster, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Pittsford, East Rochester & the eastern portion of the City of Rochester.Read More
Senator Brouk serves as Chair of the Senate Mental Health Committee and is working to revolutionize New York State’s mental health and substance abuse crisis response so that those in need receive compassionate, therapeutic care. In her first term, the Senator passed legislation to create a 9-8-8 substance abuse and mental health crisis lifeline, improve maternal mental health screenings, and maintain diagnostic authority for thousands of mental health practitioners. She has also passed Budgets that invest in our mental health workforce, delivering the first COLAs (Cost of Living Adjustment) in over a decade.
Senator Brouk is focused on supporting our families. She is working to improve the racially disparate maternal health outcomes in our community and state, and sponsors legislation to make it easier to access the emotional, physical and informational support provided by birth doulas. The Senator has also delivered the largest aid increase ever to our schools, securing over a billion dollars of school aid for SD-55. She is helping hardworking families get ahead: fighting proposed energy rate hikes; making state government more transparent, accessible and accountable; and ensuring that our communities have the resources to safely sustain and enrich our families from before birth to old age.
Senator Brouk was born and raised in the City of Rochester and surrounding suburbs before earning her B.A. in Psychology at Williams College. Before her election to the Senate, Senator Brouk’s dedication to public service led her to join the United States Peace Corps, working as a health educator in rural Guatemala. And as a leader in non-profit community development, she spent a decade building educational, environmental, and senior services initiatives in her own community and across New York State.
BSW Student of the Year
Sarah Allen, BSW Student at Stony Brook University
Sarah is an untraditional student heading for a Graduate Degree in Social Work. When Sarah was very young, she benefitted from EI services as a result of chronic ear infections that made her slightly learning delayed. K-12 was relatively uneventful, although she did have an IEP and was in a lot of inclusion classes. Sarah thought college was her next step but wasn’t mature enough to appreciate the opportunity and flunked out after 18 months. Sarah attended a vocational school for Medical Coding/Billing and was the youngest temp-> perm at the lab she worked for processing insurance claims. The job paid the bills, but she always had this nagging feeling that it wasn’t the job for her because she wasn’t an agent of change. Read More
As a student, Sarah always wanted to be a special education Social Studies teacher so she could share her love of history and how important it is to learn from the mistakes of the past. Sarah decided to leave her job and start work as a DSP in a dayhab/PWW program. It was a challenge, but she could see the impact she was making on clients. Although Sarah could see the impact she was making, she was growing increasingly frustrated by the “system” that oversaw their care. Sarah left that position and took a position as an Assistant House Manager which was worse in many ways because she saw both sides of the coin… the pressure from upper management, as well as the need for client services despite the challenges of COVID lockdowns, plus dealing with DSP’s that really didn’t want to be there. To push for the kind of changes she would like to see, Sarah knew she needed a degree.
Sarah had already decided to go back to college, no simple task given she had to make up failed classes and get off academic probation. This time, college was different. Sarah appreciated the opportunity to learn and was happy to see that she did well academically once she applied myself, something she had never really done before in an educational setting. Sarah went from being on academic probation at SCCC to graduating with honors, an achievement that she takes great pride in. Now, Sarah part of a great 3-year Master’s program at Stony Brook where the professors are some of the most intelligent and caring people she has ever had the pleasure of working with. They truly care about nurturing and developing their students as well as advancing the profession itself. Working full time as a program manager during the day and full-time nights/weekends in an accelerated program is a challenge, but one Sarah is happy to undertake in order to reach her goal of working with special needs students and becoming that agent of change.
Social Worker of the Year
Marissa Fors, LCSW, OSW-C, CCM
Marissa is proud to be a recognized leader with a demonstrated history of working in non-profit organizations. Social work has been her personal call to action. Throughout Marissa’s 16-year career in the oncology field, she has demonstrated a passion for working with cancer patients and underserved populations from the very beginning of her professional development. She is now a proud social worker, earning her LCSW, along with several other credentials including, Oncology Social Work Certification (OSW-C) and is a Certified Case Manager (CCM).Read More
Marissa is currently the Director of Specialized Programs at CancerCare and is responsible for delivering free services to people whose lives are affected by cancer, including individual counseling, support groups, and resource navigation. Her role includes program development and management, while maintaining a clinical practice from an intersectionality lens and inclusive framework. She is dedicated to oncology social work and committed to improving outcomes for all people impacted by a cancer diagnosis. She maintains a culturally competent and inclusive practice by addressing health care disparities and celebrating diversity with her clients and colleagues alike.
Marissa graduated from NYU and has since received post-graduate training on topics including Clinical Supervision, Executive Leadership in Not for Profit Sector, and Clinical Trauma Competency. As a life long learner, she is passionate about mentoring her supervisees, and received Seminar in Field Instruction certification to support social work interns and students during the beginning of their career.
Marissa is a member of the Association of Oncology Social Work (AOSW), serving as a volunteer on the Awards Committee. As part of the National Association of Social Workers – New York City Chapter, she is serving in her first term in the Delegate Assembly. In this role, she will be part of the decision-making body that sets organizational policy, establishes program priorities, and develops stances on public and professional issues.
Marissa has a passion for the written word. Her work has been featured in several publications on topics related to navigating cancer for diverse and vulnerable populations. These articles have ranged on topics including improving outcomes for patients and addressing disparities.
In 2020, she was recognized as an emerging leader with NASW-NYC. She was honored with a Leadership Award that showcased her achievements and commitments to social justice in the field. In 2021, she was awarded the 40 Under 40 in Cancer Award, recognizing the contributions being made across the field of cancer.
Doctoral Student of the Year
Allysha Bryant, PHD(c) at Wurzweiler School of Social Work
As a native New Yorker, Allysha Bryant is deeply concerned by the structural injustices that plague the city that she loves. Through her personal and academic experiences, she found joy in becoming a fierce advocate for others and ensuring that all citizens can exercise their inalienable rights.Read More
It was during her undergraduate studies at St. Francis College where she found her purpose and committed her life to living in service to others. Now pursuing a dual degree, Master of Arts in Social Work and Doctorate in Social Welfare at Yeshiva University's Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Allysha continues to strive for the best and offering support for all communities she encounters.
She is currently one of the Policy Interns at the National Association of Social Workers, New York State Chapter. This opportunity further bolstered Allysha’s interests in policy, politics, and enabled her to further develop her skillset in advocacy. She also works as the Graduate Assistant for Wurzweiler School of Social Work’s Care Café, a community-based outreach program providing psychoeducation and pop-up support to vulnerable communities.
Centering her roles as mother, student, advocate, community organizer, and political social worker, Allysha collaborates with key stakeholders in marginalized communities to provide culturally responsive, empowerment-based interventions. Her experience lends itself to community needs assessments, program development, crisis intervention, and qualitative metrics. Her long-term career objectives include running for Congress and utilizing this platform to support and enact key legislation which will improve the quality of life for communities who have been systemically underrepresented.
Meritorious Human Service Organization
Founded in 2003, Day One devotes its full resources to preventing dating abuse among young people, partnering with youth to end dating abuse and domestic violence through community education, supportive services, legal advocacy and leadership development. Day One has educated or assisted more than 20,000 youth and adults per year since its inception. Our Community Education Program trains youth and adults about dating abuse, domestic sex trafficking and the law. Serving citywide youth 24 years of age and under, our legal and social services programs provide counseling, case management, legal representation, advice, and information to youth. Day One’s Youth Voices Network engages young survivors in advocacy and outreach projects to build awareness of teen dating violence. Read More
In 2016, Day One became one of only three providers implementing the Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP). RAPP places licensed social workers in NYC high schools where they deliver educational workshops, provide individual and group counseling for students, and facilitate peer leadership summer programming for teens. In a continual effort to center young people as leaders in the anti-violence movement, Day One has steadily increased its youth development programming to be year-round, with groups that lift up the voices of young people as experts in their own lives and advocates for their peers. Identifying the origins of unhealthy patterns must start early, and, in 2017, Day One began its Elementary Prevention Initiative for Children (EPIC). EPIC focused on introducing language and skills among younger children - and the adult influencers around them - to establish healthy friendships before youth enter their dating years.
Champion of Justice
Gregory Owens, LMSW
Owens is a licensed master social worker and worked for NY State for over 34 years. He retired from state employment in 2021. He is a highly sought-after keynote speaker, trainer and consultant in leadership development, mentoring, cultural competence, and effective approaches for working with young Black males. He has consulted on racial disproportionality with the with the Annie E. Casey funded Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) program in the juvenile justice systems in Ohio, Michigan and Hawaii.Read More
Owens was certified in Healing Centered Engagement in 2021 and has included that in his framework for addressing issues of racial justice and equity. He is currently working on transformative leadership with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the Wilson County Department of Social Services in North Carolina the Office of Administration Court in New Jersey. He is engaged locally with health care professionals in Schenectady and other municipalities in New York State. In 2022, he joined the Mary Pender Green Consulting Agency and will provide services to various programs and organizations in New York City.
Owens has provided training on Implicit Bias to the Albany Police Department, local community stakeholders, and the New York State Unified Courts and Bar Association. He has presented training sessions on the mind science of bias, anxiety and threat to the Mediation Centers in Columbia and Dutchess Counties, and Raleigh, North Carolina. He worked with municipal staff in Goldsboro, North Carolina on leadership, managing difficult conversations and bias.
In 2017, he provided leadership development sessions to program managers and leaders of federally funded health marriage and responsible fatherhood programs from across the nation.
He has worked with schools and school districts, facilitating sessions with administrators on Implicit Bias, Leadership, Cultural Competence and Mastering Difficult Conversations, and with the Albany Law School on Diversity and Inclusion efforts, facilitating listening sessions with faculty, professors, and students.
His work in health disparities includes convening the Albany Minority Health Task Force for the University at Albany, Center for the Elimination of Minority Health Disparities, and consultation with the Adirondack Health Initiative, presenting workshops on health literacy and culture to stakeholders in the upstate region of New York State.
He was appointed to the NYS Board of Regents Workgroup to Improve Outcomes for Boys and Males of Color in 2015. He has participated as a member of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, the national advisory board on Improving Outcomes for African American Males in the Child Welfare System: Identifying Effective Programs and Services, and the Alliance Network of Social Service Administrators Committed to Racial Equity, and is an advisory board member of the Child Welfare Adoption Leadership Institute (CWALI): Developing and Supporting Emerging Leaders of Color.
Owens has coached track and field, was the host of smooth jazz radio stations in the Capital Region for nine years, and has also worked as a treating clinician for the National Football League substance abuse program.
He received his BA in Sociology from Rider University and a master’s degree in Social Work specializing in Criminal and Juvenile Justice from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a soloist, and member of the male choir. He and Terry Owens have been married for 30 years, are active members and Deacons at the Macedonia Baptist Church. They are the proud parents of Kayla, a graduate of American University, Georgetown University and who is currently enrolled at George Mason University, where she is seeking a PhD in Conflict Analysis and Resolution.
MSW Student of the Year
Nicole Abbatiello, BSW, MSW Student at Stony Brook University
Nicole Abbatiello is an Advanced Standing Master’s Student at Stony Brook University. She is pleased and grateful to be this year’s recipient of the NASW MSW Student of the Year. Assisting individuals and families from diverse populations has always been a passion of Nicole's. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Stony Brook University in 2022 with her BSW, and is a current member of the Phi Alpha National Honor Society.
While Nicole was an active member on campus, she also was interning at Family Service League in Bay Shore in the C.A.I.R. department. During this internship, Nicole assisted individuals and families with applying for government assistance programs and benefits, such as SNAP, HEAP, WIC, and Medicaid while also distributing food from the food pantry. Currently, Nicole now work at Family Service League as a therapeutic recreational aide for the R.E.C.E.S.S. program. As a therapeutic recreational aide, she teaches children ages 7-14 socialization, emotional, and behavioral skills through enjoyable crafts and games. She also incorporate impulse control and fine motor skills in these projects to help the children enhance their abilities. For her current internship as an Advanced Standing Master’s Student, Nicole is interning as a medical social worker at Mather Hospital. As a medical social work intern, Nicole conducts biopsychosocials with patients from different economic, cultural, and social backgrounds to determine the best and most safe discharge plan. At the hospital, Nicole is constantly collaborating with interdisciplinary teams regarding patients’ needs and creating referrals for patients to subacute rehabs, homecare agencies, drug and alcohol rehabs, palliative services, and in-patient psychiatric units. Interning at Mather Hospital convinced Nicole to pursue a career as a medical social worker after graduation.
Nicole is beyond thankful that she was selected as the NASW MSW Student of the Year, and cannot wait to see where her future in social work takes her.