Social work students at NAU-Yuma have teamed with community partners on projects targeting childhood well-being.

“The purpose of their class projects is to get the ball rolling on community improvement activities and then to have the community take over,” said Bill Pederson, NAU-Yuma social work professor.

One group of NAU seniors has worked with the Yuma Optimist club on a $30,000 grant application aimed at bringing playground equipment to an area near the Mesa Del Sol golf course. The grant would be funded by KaBOOM!, a national non-profit organization dedicated to saving play for American children.

“Childhood obesity has become an epidemic among children of all backgrounds,” said social work student Jurixié Lopez. “By building a family park with a playground, we hope that families, and especially children, will be motivated to become physically active.”

A second group of students is targeting child neglect by partnering with the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Imperial County. Together, they are providing kits for neglected children that include items such as hygiene products, blankets and toys. The kits were distributed to those in need at a recent community education event addressing child neglect in El Centro, Calif. Those who attended also received a resource manual that includes a list of agencies that can help in the areas of health, nutrition and medical needs.

“We hope to unite the community and motivate them to help these families in our own community,” said Mayra Martinez, a senior in the social work program.

Another group of students is assisting with a program to curb child hunger in the El Centro School District.

Forty-eight percent of children in Imperial Valley are either food insecure or in poverty, according to FeedingAmerica.org. To address that, the NAU student’s are working with Martin Luther King Elementary to run a three-week trial of a mid-morning snack program.

The social work students also held a parent education seminar at the school to discuss childhood hunger and its effects.