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June 22, 2012


Social work interns help ACS develop community partnerships

Two University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire social work interns are gaining valuable experience through the Fort McCoy Army Community Service (ACS) Family Advocacy and Exceptional Family Member programs. As a result, they will take this information and understanding about working with military Families with them as they embark on their social work careers later this year.
PHOTO: Alyssa Knoll, social work intern. Photo by Rob Schuette
PHOTO: Jess Tomsen, social work intern. Photo by Rob Schuette

Terry Rogalla, Fort McCoy Family Advocacy and Exceptional Family Member program manager, said having social work interns placed at ACS is a terrific opportunity to continue developing mutually beneficial partnerships between ACS, the military and the community. ACS has sponsored several higher-education interns in the past.

“We work with colleges and universities to bring social work interns or interns from a related field, such as Family Studies programs, to get real-life experience at Fort McCoy,” Rogalla said. “They get practical experience, and we get an opportunity to introduce and educate new social workers about working with military Families.”

Alyssa Knoll and Jess Tomsen are seniors pursuing bachelor’s degrees in social work. The internships are part of their graduation requirements. Both Knoll and Tomsen hope to work with veterans after they graduate, either with a Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, through a government organization such as ACS, or with a community organization.
Knoll said she hopes to work for an organization such as the Tomah VA Medical Center or for ACS. She lives in Sparta, and the internship is helping to show her how Fort McCoy impacts the services offered and provided in the local communities.

“We have veterans in my Family, and, with so many veterans coming home from war, this is a good fit,” she said. “Social workers with bachelor’s degrees do advocacy work, and that’s what ACS provides.”

Tomsen said her goal is to work with veterans at a VA, hopefully in Minneapolis.

“This is helping me to get familiar with the issues and the military,” Tomsen said. “This is a great opportunity.”

Rogalla said the students will perform their intern duties two days a week through mid December to support the ACS Family Advocacy and Exceptional Family Member programs. Tomsen will work with the School Age Services programs, as the youth also can benefit from social-work support with all the issues military children have to deal with. Knoll will work in the ACS office with Families, providing advocacy, educational and preventive services.

“Social work is a very broad field,” Rogalla said. “Both will work with Family Advocacy and Exceptional Family Member issues, helping to prevent abuse, providing other social support and making a positive difference in the lives of our military Families.”

“Even if they don’t ultimately work for the VA or a military service organization, such as ACS, they can take this experience and knowledge with them to the organizations they will work for and can serve as a valuable resource to serve our military Families and veterans in their communities,” he said.

Becky Wapp Sawyer, ACS director, said, “Having student interns is a way of us giving back to the community and profession,” and provides another resource to help ensure military Families can have access to the information and services they need.

For more information about ACS, visit building 2111, or call 608-388-3505.

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