Catholic Charities invests in protégés of the future


By Gregory Kirwin

SAN BERNARDINO—The best way to predict the future is to invent it, and Catholic Charities San Bernardino-Riverside is doing so by investing in the next generation of non-profit human service professionals who will carry forward the mission to provide compassionate and competent care to the most vulnerable families in our local communities. 


 The Catholic Charities Higher Education Professional Development Program has four components: The Non-Profit Social Work Fellowship Program; Student Field Placements; Student Initiated Research & Special Projects, and “Providing Help, Creating Hope” Community College Scholarships. 

 The Non-Profit Social Work Fellowship Program is a unique partnership with the School of Social Work at California State University, San Bernardino which provides four bachelor’s or master’s level social work students with 50% tuition assistance. The students also receive mentoring from senior staff at Catholic Charities. This program was expressly established by Catholic Charities to increase the number of social work careers in the local non-profit arena. 

 “I know that if it weren’t for the support from the Catholic Charities Fellowship Program, I wouldn’t have been able to be a social worker in a non-profit organization,” says Dawn Spencer, a previous Fellowship recipient now working for Inland Temporary Homes.

 Catholic Charities provides a vast array of social services including immigration services, counseling services and casework services. Students enrolled in local universities are placed in Catholic Charities offices where they are provided weekly direct supervision by the most qualified staff at Catholic Charities for an entire academic year. Each year over 20 doctorate, master’s degree and bachelor’s degree students are provided clinical and non-clinical field placements. 

 “The program helped me develop as a therapist with excellent supervision,” says Katherine Braun, a Marriage & Family Trainee from Argosy University, “and taught me how to have a community relationship.” 

 Dovetailing with both the Fellowship program and the field placements, Catholic Charities also supports Student Initiated Research & Special Projects. This program provides opportunities and support each year to university students with an innovative idea for research or a special project. The goal is for students to achieve project goals that will enhance their educational experience and leave a positive footprint on the organization. Students are offered staff time and other needed support. 

 “My project, which was research and grant-writing on a macro level, was amazing,” commented David Gomez, MSW, a recent intern from Azusa Pacific University. “I researched best practices for developing a large volunteer program and initiated an exploratory study on social enterprises.”

 Catholic Charities also invests in low-income local students who are enrolled in a community college in San Bernardino or Riverside county and are pursuing an education in a human services field. “Providing Help, Creating Hope” Community College Scholarships are awarded each year by local community colleges on a rotating basis each year. 

 “In partnership with local colleges and universities, Catholic Charities is providing training and experiences to higher education students whom will exemplify the best and brightest in the human services field,” said CEO Ken F. Sawa. “The Catholic Charities Higher Education Professional Development Program was established to ensure that Catholic Charities and other local non-profits will have strong human service leaders in the future.”