Walla Walla University is one of 13 higher education programs in Washington state participating in a new program which will provide scholarships to Master’s of Social Work students with the aim of alleviating the need for behavioral health providers. The scholarships are part of the Behavioral Health Workforce Development Initiative which is funded by a grant from the Ballmer Foundation.
Darold Bigger, WWU dean of social work, sits on the advisory committee for the program. He explained that right now, “the need for behavioral health clinicians is acute, particularly for the underserved and most vulnerable populations in Washington state. Working for people like these fits Jesus’ model of serving those who need it most. It’s Christian service in action.”
Students in the Master’s of Social Work program can apply, and right now there is no limit to how many students can be awarded a grant. The amount of money each student receives is based on their financial needs, and students must agree to work at an approved behavioral health agency in Washington state after graduation for one and a half years for each year they receive scholarship funds.
Bigger said, “It’s a game changer for students, providing up to $25,000 per year toward expenses for their MSW degree.”
Ricardo Gamez, a WWU Master’s of Social Work student, was notified of the grant over Christmas break. He said the application process included a series of essay questions about his professional goals, current employment, and why he wanted to work in social work.
Gamez received his undergraduate degree in psychology from Eastern Washington University and knew he wanted to help people. After graduation, he accepted a position at Renew Grant Behavioral Health and Wellness in Moses Lake, Washington, where he currently works as a crisis intervention specialist. When he graduates from WWU with his Master’s of Social Work degree, he plans on transitioning to working as a designated crisis responder where he will help people who have attempted or contemplated suicide, as well as other individuals in crisis, and get them the resources they need.
Gamez said, “I was so fortunate. I have applied for so many scholarships in the past and haven't been fortunate enough. With working full time and having to pay out of pocket for school, this is a big financial relief. I feel very blessed, it means a lot.”
Posted on February 28, 2022