How do you define "hope?"

Somewhat ambivalent optimism? Uncertain expectation? Longing or desire?

One dictionary definition is: "the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best."

Not just a wish, desire or expectation that things will get better. But a belief.

If you're pursuing an on-campus or online social work degree, you're probably doing so because you know that social work matters.

Social workers change lives for the better.

They deliver hope to those who need it most.

"Weaving Threads of Resilience and Advocacy"

According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), fueled by resilience and advocacy, social workers help millions of struggling people every day to manage serious life challenges – to dream differently.

That's why the association selected "Weaving Threads of Resilience and Advocacy" as its theme for this year's National Professional Social Work Month. Officially recognized by the White House since 1984, the annual celebration of one of the nation's largest professions takes place every March. For the past several years, the NASW has used the month to improve public perception of social work and promote the profession.

"The NASW has set aside March as National Social Work month to provide those of us in the profession with the opportunity to publicize what the field of social work is all about and to encourage, educate and support those who are social workers and those who are being prepared to become social workers," said Cindy Lee, associate professor of social work and director of Saint Leo University's online Master of Social Work program.

"This year's theme, 'Weaving Threads of Resilience and Advocacy,' speaks to how social workers empower those in need to live an independent and fulfilling life and to advocate for the resources needed for those in need to live life to its fullest," said Lee.

Why social work matters.

Recognized as a top growth profession, social work directly addresses the increased demand for health care navigation, mental health services, family care-giving, and child development. There are currently more than 650,000 professionally trained social workers in the United States, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth to 800,000 by the year 2020.

From 1931 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jane Addams to 1994 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Dorothy I. Height, social work pioneers have been instrumental in advancing civil rights and human rights policies in America. Today, social work professionals continue to influence and improve services in hospitals, schools, businesses, military branches, government, and thousands of non-profit and community organizations across the country.

What is social work?

What is the mission of the social work profession?

Here are a few thoughts:

"Social workers are ongoing advocates for social and economic justice, working to promote positive change in the lives of thousands of individuals and families on a daily basis. While programs strive to show accountability, it cannot always be seen in numbers, but in the improved conditions of the lives of those we serve. Social workers are hope-builders, empowered and empowering, change agents for the underserved."

— Dr. Victoria Anyikwa
Saint Leo Associate Professor of Social Work, M.S.W. Program

"We, as social workers, are often the only sense of support our clients have. We instill hope that the situation will get better, and we assist them in developing skills they can use in the future when issues arise. We help them identify their strengths, and believe in themselves. We seek to break the generational chains of poverty, domestic violence and substance abuse through awareness and support, benefitting generations to come."

— Diane Scotland-Coogan
Saint Leo Instructor of Social Work,
M.S.W. Program

"Social workers strive every day to help millions of people function better in their environments. They also work to change environments that may limit individuals, families and communities."

—Elizabeth J. Clark
CEO, National Association of Social Workers

"Our democracy thrives when everyone has the opportunity to lead a productive and fulfilling life. For more than 100 years, the social work profession has made the psychosocial well-being of the most vulnerable its top priority because everyone deserves to dream bigger."

—Jeane Anastas
President, National Association of Social Workers

"For me social work is about the power of relationships – the health of a community is in the depth and breadth of relationships among those who share common interests. As a child I remember my parents having the support of a social worker, being an immigrant in a strange land can be very hard to manage and she was always there to answer questions and provide leadership and help us build bridges within our community.

—Mary Martinez-Drovie, Saint Leo B.S.W. '03
Graduate Enrollment Counselor, Saint Leo University

For more information about National Social Work Month or the social work profession, visit

Are you thinking about pursuing a social work career? Share why in comments below.

Image Credit: matteosp on Flickr/Creative Commons