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Abstract

While delivering an organizations and communities class to a cohort of students in an outlying rural area, a social work program explored ways to educate students effectively while simultaneously exploring and devising strategies to fill local gaps in community services. The project utilized evidence-based learning strategies focusing on experiential instruction and collaboration with local community agencies. Using aspects of the flipped classroom as well as service learning, the course was particularly interested in engaging with community stakeholders to identify issues arising from the realities of a rural service environment. Students identified a project, worked with community partners, and delivered recommendations at completion. The findings were then used to write a grant to assist with prisoner reentry into the community. This resulted in an award nearing $300,000 to bridge gaps in services. The grant funded two social work positions to provide strengths-based family centered case management, funds for community mentor/volunteer training, released prisoner group meetings aimed at improving released prisoner social and moral functioning, and funds aimed at transportation assistance. The article discusses all aspects of the project and provides an outline to assist social work educators to integrate similar projects into other programs. The project was completed in and is especially well suited for rural areas, where services, resources, and expertise are often lacking. The authors specifically discuss the challenges and strategies of completing a project of this type in a rural setting.

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