Two Massachusetts Grad Students Awarded National Social Work Scholarships

October 24, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) awarded two Massachusetts students, Mathieu Joshuah McNeil and Walter Raleigh Higgs, III, with Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial MSW scholarships for improving the quality of life in African American communities using techniques ranging from music therapy to professional development.

"Mr. McNeil and Mr. Higgs exemplify the sort of passion and drive we like to see in Foundation scholarship candidates," said NASWF director, Robert Arnold. "Specific to these awards, their work in the field of African American health and mental health practices matches the program's mission well. We are grateful to the New York Community Trust for its generous support of the program's mission as well."

The Verne LaMarr Lyons Scholarship is a monetary grant awarded to a master's degree candidate in social work who demonstrates an interest in, or has experience with, health/mental health practice and a commitment to working in African American communities. As the result of a grant from the New York Community Trust Robert and Ellen Popper Scholarship Fund, the 2014-2015 scholarships were increased from two scholarships of up to $2,000 each to four scholarships in the amount of $4,150 each.

Mr. Higgs, a Simmons graduate student at the School of Social Work, serves as the Lead Housing Case Manager for Community Support Program for People Experiencing Chronic Homelessness (CSPECH)   and Low threshold Housing at Pine Street Inn, Inc. "My research deals with merging the disciplines of music, spirituality and psychotherapy to improve daily living and decision-making skills in the lives of  African American men who are mentally challenged and distressed," Mr. Higgs said.

Mr. Mcneil, who lives in Boston, was a volunteer in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He saw tremendous loss but, in the re-building process, saw opportunities for derailed communities to get back on course. A student at Boston College and a City Year Boston corps member, Mr. McNeil said he would like to run an organization that educates at-risk groups about financial literacy, mental health services, overall health and professional development, and that provides entrepreneurial guidance as well. "My non-profit would focus on decreasing psychosocial stresses and increasing coping and motivational skills, through workshops and training," Mr. McNeil said.


Social workers are skilled professionals who have gone through extensive training to receive a bachelor's degree, master's degree or doctorate in social work. Social workers are licensed by the state after receiving their degree. They help improve the quality of life for families, veterans, the elderly, minorities and people living with mental illnesses. Government research confirms that social work is one of the fastest growing professions in the country, with more than 650,000 licensed nationwide.

*The scholarship is a memorial to social worker Verne LaMarr Lyons, who committed his life to increasing awareness of pernicious health concerns affecting African American such as insufficient prenatal care, infant mortality, AIDS, cirrhosis, and general life expectancy. As a result of a grant from the New York Community Trust Robert and Ellen Popper Scholarship Fund, the 2014-2015 awards will increase from two scholarships of up to $2,000 each to four scholarships in the amount of $4,150, each.

For more information about the NASW Foundation or the Verve laMarr Lyons Memorial MSW Scholarship program, please visit www.naswfoundation.org or e-mail naswfoundation@naswdc.org.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers with 130,000 members. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) is a charitable organization created to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through the advancement of social work practice.