Monday, May 16, 2011

Stewpot Children & Youth Programs Director named Alumna of the Year

Suzanne Dwight
Suzanne Dwight, LMSW, Director of Children & Youth Programs at The Stewpot, is an inaugural graduate of Baylor University's Masters program at the School of Social Work. Suzanne was named Alumna of the Year, and was recognized at a dinner at Baylor on April 28th.

Chosen for her work as a congregational social worker with children and youth in inner-city Dallas, Suzanne received the Louise Brandon scholarship for graduate school. At The Stewpot, she oversees 38 college students who are receiving scholarships through The Stewpot's children and youth program. "As I see the difference that the scholarship makes to those students it has helped me to appreciate the scholarship that I received even more."

Suzanne joined The Stewpot in 2004 and coordinates all Stewpot programs for Dallas inner-city and homeless children and teens ranging in grades from first grade through college. When she started, she reports that "there were 13 scholarship recipients and now with program expansion we are able to help many more students achieve their dreams. Many of the students I work with are first generation college students and also the first person in their family to graduate from high school. It has been a pleasure to be able to help them through the process of preparing for college as high school students and then also to follow them through their college career."

Since joining The Stewpot, children and youth program attendance has increased by 25%, and the number of youth attending college has increased by more than 50%. "I am expecting ten of our students to graduate from college this year," reports Suzanne. "To many of the students the thought of going to college is a completely new experience and The Stewpot programs are able to provide guidance and support they may not receive otherwise."

Suzanne initiated the formation the ESL program for parents of the Stewpot’s Saturday School, and implemented the formation of Junior Crew to hold and recover former Saturday School participants that otherwise would not have participated in the programs. Suzanne has built programs and increased participation in events through surveys, evaluation tools, and new initiatives. This summer she will be supervising a bi-lingual Exxon Mobile Intern to work with the parents of the children in our program, and to evaluate curriculum.

"During a typical year, my staff and I work with about 350 or more students in 1st grade through college doing enrichment programs and also 20 parents in an English as a Second Language class that I was instrumental in implementing. These are individuals and families that live in the downtown Dallas area but they themselves do not attend First Presbyterian Church. They are however able to experience the ministries that the church has to offer. In fact the two summer camps that we implement each summer utilizes the church space as much if not more than the church members do during that time. This is what being a community ministry and living out the Christian faith is about. I love that I am able to do that as part of my job."

"If I could make a recommendation to the students that are here today, it would be to take every opportunity to learn from what the faculty has to offer and teach. Also, in your field placement don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn as much as you can. I have found from being a field instructor that some days especially during supervision, I learned as much as the student did."