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“Vibrant, energetic, joyful” grad is Social Work Student of the Year

February 05, 2018

Recent Ursuline College graduate Shanell Harris ’17 was “overwhelmed with joy but very humbled” when she learned she will bepicture of Janell Harris recognized March 9 at the Cuyahoga County Conference on Social Welfare. Harris, who graduated last May, will receive the BSW (bachelor of social work) Student of the Year Award. 

It’s a nice turn of events for a grad who had no intention of attending Ursuline, right out of high school.

“I was going to Florida; that was my plan,” Harris said. Encouragement from her mother and from her friend Monique Primm (a 2015 Ursuline grad) led her to consider Ursuline after she graduated from Cuyahoga Community College.

“I prayed about it, I thought about it and I came for a visit.” She was hooked and hasn’t looked back. “I don’t think I could have made a better choice.”

Harris was nominated for the award by former department chair Sister Kathleen Cooney, OSU, PhD, LSW. In her nomination, Sister Kathleen wrote, “Shanell A. Harris is a vibrant, energetic, joyful young woman who is a magnetic leader among her peers. If there is any need that Shanell sees, she will volunteer and make a commitment to service with integrity, with a passion for advocacy and with an awareness of the core values of the profession.”

Sister Kathleen went on list Harris’s volunteer work in the Ronald McDonald Family Room for families of children hospitalized at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, and her work throughout her college years as a part-time mental health worker in the Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Unit at Rainbow. Last year, she received Rainbow’s Volunteer for All Seasons award.

Harris is grateful to Sister Kathleen and Professor Sharon Wilson, MSSA, LISW-S, for both encouraging her and pushing her to excel. She says Wilson helped her secure a field placement at Recovery Resources while she was still a student. Harris made such a good impression there that she went to work for the nonprofit organization full time after graduating and passing her licensing exam. 

“I had the job lined up before I even graduated,” she said. Harris works with adult clients who have severe mental health diagnoses and criminal histories.

“I do not think I would have gotten the experience I had here at Ursuline College anywhere else,” she said. “I believe Ursuline pushed me to that professional level that I thought of, but I didn’t know I could achieve. Community college prepared me to be a student and Ursuline prepared me to be a professional.”

Harris joins a 20-year line of Ursuline social work students who have been named BSW Student of the Year, including her influential pal, Primm:

1998 Andrea Prizzi
2002 Victoria Malone-Marion
2004 Catherine Kopinsky
2005 Alan Hejduk
2006 Kelly Simmons
2008 Susan H. Wood
2009 Mae Bennett
2010 Robyn Manchick
2011 Celia Smith
2013 Susan Postle
2014 Nancy Wilson
2015 Monique Primm
2016 Karen Branscomb
2017 Shanell Harris

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