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June 15, 2006
Contact: Lori Messinger, School of Social Welfare, (785) 864-8968.

Spring 2006 KU social welfare graduates win national prize for state policy advocacy

LAWRENCE — Four spring 2006 graduates from the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare are traveling to Washington, D.C., this weekend to receive a national award for student political advocacy projects.

Influencing State Policy rewarded Kaela Byers, Lawrence; Lisa Crook, Leawood; Lisbeth Sojourner, Overland Park; and Christopher Veeh, Colby, for their advocacy in the passage of juvenile justice legislation in Kansas this year. They will share the annual $1,000 undergraduate award with two groups of social work students from other universities.

This is the first KU student group to win the award, which will be presented Sunday, June 18, at the Policy Conference for Influencing State Policy at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. The conference takes place from June 16 to 19 and is sponsored by the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work.

The KU students did their advocacy project as part of a class assignment in a social work policy advocacy class taught by Lori Messinger, assistant professor of social welfare, who also receives an award as their instructor.

The students were tracking legislation that would reduce racial biases in the juvenile justice system and provide grants to exemplary county juvenile justice programs.

“When they recognized that the issue was not well understood, the students developed relationships with legislators, bureaucrats and leaders of statewide advocacy groups, and they mailed information to local religious leaders. They became advocates for Senate Bill 47,” Messinger said.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed the bill into law May 4.

Influencing State Policy was formed in 1997 to assist social work faculty and students in learning how to influence effectively the formation, implementation and evaluation of state-level policy and legislation. The goal of Influencing State Policy is to increase social work efficacy in influencing state-level policy and legislation. More information is available online at the organization's Web site.

The students all received bachelor’s of social welfare degrees from KU in May. They are listed below by hometown, parents’ names and high school attended (when available).

DOUGLAS COUNTY
From Lawrence
Kaela D. Byers is the daughter of Jim Weaver and Pat Weaver and is a Lawrence High School graduate. She will enter graduate school in social work at the University of Maryland in July.

JOHNSON COUNTY
From Leawood
Lisa Christine Crook is the daughter of Denise McNerney and is a Shawnee Mission East High School graduate. She will be entering a social work graduate program at Columbia University in New York City in August, specializing in policy analysis and advocacy.

From Overland Park
Lisbeth Robin Sojourner is the daughter of Cynthia Stucker and is a graduate of Shawnee Mission West High School. She is a master’s degree student in KU’s School of Social Welfare.

THOMAS COUNTY
From Colby
Christopher A. Veeh is the son of Thomas and Susan Veeh and is a Colby High School graduate. He is a master’s degree student in the KU School of Social Welfare.

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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