“Even in advocacy for equitability, there is still not equity” Kent School of Social Work student details student advocacy, voter engagement efforts Wednesday, Feb 1 2023 

By Tate Luckey

February 7th marks an important day in the Kentucky legislature, not only for politicians who are reconvening for Part II of the session, but also for student advocates like sophomore social work major Lexie Overstreet.

When not watching the NFL Playoffs or reading memoirs, her days are spent answering phones, knocking on doors, and communicating the concerns constituents have with their legislators down in the rotunda in Frankfort.

Making an impact for those who can’t

Overstreet is the current regional field organizer and former voter engagement specialist at Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates (PPAA) here in Louisville. While this means she’s not directly involved in legislation, someone like her makes a big impact. “A lot of my work is just helping people be conscious; that includes explaining to people what things are, hearing their commentary on those issues, and ultimately taking it to Frankfort,” she said.

“I try to represent a wide array of age demographics, then I set up meetings with legislators and say to them ‘Oh, this person from this district really cares about this issue and they want abortion access.’ It’s not me as the Planned Parenthood rep — it’s me as the individual. I help people feel as though they have a voice,” she described. 

Sophomore Lexie Overstreet leading a group of teens

She and others in her role knocked on over 1,000 doors in parts of Louisville and Northern Kentucky, and it was here where she said her impact was felt the most. “I got a lot of ‘Thank you so much for being out here, doing your work,” Overstreet said. “One mom, in particular, thanked me saying that this meant the world to her because of her kids and previous experiences regarding abortion access; she wanted to be out doing this.” 

For her though, changing votes isn’t the only purpose of communicating with those across the aisle. Listening and being heard are just as important. “There are people who don’t agree, which is tough, especially when you know so many people’s personal stories. But we’re still all human. It’s likely the legislation that we support isn’t going to pass, but there has been some important work done across the aisle,” she said. 

Polling has shown all along that the majority of Kentuckians support access to all reproductive health options, including abortion. However, Overstreet says “the problem is the legislature refuses to listen, that’s why I’m doing everything I can to make sure Kentuckians feel heard.” Of Kentucky’s state legislature, the Republican Party holds both chambers.

Going beyond advocacy

Overstreet values her time since transferring here at U of L, saying that her classes within her social work track helped her gain perspective beyond a “U.S.-centric” lens. She was recently highlighted by the Kent School of Social Work for her efforts and involvement within her community. Being a first gen college student, though, does pose some challenges. 

“It does get kind of hard sometimes because you do feel kind of misunderstood. There are a lot of expectations. The hardest part is learning to ask for help and who to ask for help from. The LBGT Center and Diversity and Equity center have been tremendously helpful in my case.”

In her case, however, asking questions is all part of the job. “You have to get over the discomfort,” she said. 

Andrew Meiners (left) and Lexie Overstreet (right)

She and her peer, current voter engagement specialist Andrew Meiners, run Generation Action here on campus, whose goals are aligned with advocacy work and community involvement. Even for those who are unable to regularly attend events or meetings, sharing the message is still just as impactful. 

“Even in advocacy, where you advocate for equitability, there is still not equity. Sometimes for others, it’s just not physically possible, and sharing that post sometimes can be enough. I can tell people’s stories, but it’s so much more impactful coming from them. It’s important that people get to see people from Kentucky,” she said. 

Photo Courtesy // Lexie Overstreet //

The post “Even in advocacy for equitability, there is still not equity” Kent School of Social Work student details student advocacy, voter engagement efforts appeared first on The Louisville Cardinal.

School of Social Work creates scholarship in memory of transgender student Friday, Oct 2 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

The University of Louisville’s Kent School of Social Work has created a scholarship in memory of Amirage Saling, a transgender woman who graduated from the Kent School in 2019. Saling passed away on Sept. 13, 2020, at the age of 52 years old.

Saling worked as a social worker for Volunteers of America and was known to be a strong advocate for HIV care. She was also the first transgender person to carry a school/college banner at a U of L graduation.

The scholarship in memory of her will be called the Trans* Champion scholarship and will go to a Kent School student who either is transgender, genderqueer, nonbinary or gender non conforming, or to a student who advocates for the rights of these groups.

“[The recipient] will exemplify the attributes necessary to be an advocate for LGBTQ rights within the field of Social Work with a particular emphasis on the rights of those who are transgender, nonbinary, genderqueer, or gender nonconforming,” the announcement email said.

The details of the scholarship amount and how to apply have not been announced yet. However, those who wish to donate to the scholarship fund can do so by going to the Kent School Giving Form and select that they wish to give to the Trans Champion Endowed Award.

Photo Courtesy//The University of Louisville

The post School of Social Work creates scholarship in memory of transgender student appeared first on The Louisville Cardinal.

U of L researchers from various departments help combat COVID-19 Friday, Apr 3 2020 

–By Eli Hughes

The University of Louisville announced April 3 the actions its researchers are taking to respond to COVID-19, which includes actions from the school of medicine, the school of public health, the school of social work and J.B. Speed School of Engineering.

These U of L departments are manufacturing kits used in COVID-19 testing, manufacturing personal protective equipment, disinfecting N-95 masks and working on ways to contact trace the spread of the virus.

“There is an incredible amount of work and I am really proud of researchers we have here who have really responded incredibly well to this crisis and the need for all of these types of activities,” said Kevin Gardner, the executive vice president of research for U of L, in the April 3 U of L trustee’s meeting, which was held virtually.

The Speed School has partnered with the School of Medicine to create and distribute swab kits. The lack of these kits is a limiting factor to widespread COVID-19 testing, so U of L hopes that this contribution can make it possible to increase the amount of testing.

Researchers at the Speed School are also manufacturing face shields, which medical professionals can use to protect themselves when they are in contact with COVID-19 patients. These masks will be distributed not only to hospitals in Kentucky but across the country to places where the virus is spreading more rapidly such as New York.

U of L has also developed a process for sanitizing N-95 masks, which are the medical-grade masks that have been valuable resources since the beginning of this outbreak. Gardner has said their facilities will be able to sanitize 10,000 N-95 masks a day.

The Schools of Public Health and Social Work are responding to the COVID-19 outbreak by helping with contact tracing. This means they are helping identify who might have come into contact with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19.

This action can help prevent the spread of the virus by quickly isolating those who have been in contact with the virus.

More information on U of L’s research can be found on the U of L research website.

File Graphic//The Louisville Cardinal

The post U of L researchers from various departments help combat COVID-19 appeared first on The Louisville Cardinal.

U of L holds first annual Human Trafficking Awareness Fair Tuesday, Jan 21 2020 

By Eli Hughes —

The University of Louisville held its first annual Human Trafficking Awareness Resource Fair  Jan 15. The event was held in the SAC ballroom and was organized by the program coordinator for the Women’s Center, Jamieca Jones.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, so Jones organized the event to help bring attention to the situation. “I wanted to have this event, to of course bring awareness, but also to educate our students,” Jones said. “That way students are better equipped and prepared to really recognize if it’s real situation of not, and what they can do if they are bystander.”

The resource fair included booths from numerous organizations including the Refuge for Women, a non-profit that works to rehabilitate trafficked and sexually exploited women. The Refuge for Women provides a nine-month program that includes housing, weekly counseling sessions and job prep at no cost to the resident. 

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also had a booth at the resource fair. Marsha Gilmer-Tullis, the executive director of the family advocacy division, ran the booth. She is a graduate from U of L’s Kent School of Social work and was brought in by the women’s center to educate students, parents and professionals on the signs of child human trafficking and the ways to help keep children safe. 

According to Gilmer-Tullis, it’s important to educate college students on these issues so they are more aware when navigating the world in the future. “I know it’s a cliché,” Gilmer-Tullis said. “But knowledge really is power. And this is good knowledge to have, to know how you can even do your part.”

Jones hopes that the event can be an important resource for students who have been or possibly could be affected by human trafficking in the future, or who have friends that are in these situations. “By being equipped with these resources, these tools, and this information, they might be able to do something about it,” Jones said. 

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal 

The post U of L holds first annual Human Trafficking Awareness Fair appeared first on The Louisville Cardinal.