MSSWA Legislator of the Year 2019 Senator Carla Nelson

        It is our honor to present the MSSWA Legislator of the Year Award for 2019. My name is Christy McCoy MSSWA Legislative Chair and SSWAA Legislative Chair and my name is Rachel Page I am a School Social Worker for Rochester Public School District. This year’s recipient is the Chair of Senate E-12 Education Finance and Policy Committee and also serves on the Human Services Finance and Policy Committees which are committees where MSSWA’s various initiatives that we support fall.  Senator Carla Nelson has served as a Government Official in various capacities starting as a Representative in the House from 2003-2004 (District 30A); the Senate 2011-2012 (District 30); Senate 2013-Present (District 26 which is Olmstead and Wabasha Counties). Senator Nelson is a former Rochester Public School Teacher and has a Master’s Degree in Teacher Leadership. Thus, education is one of her passions.

One of the reasons MSSWA is honoring Senator Nelson as our Legislator of the Year is because of her commitment to not only ensuring that all students have access to college, that college is more affordable, championing efforts where that students are prepared for jobs in the future but also her willingness to create space to ensure that our legislature is addressing policies to support school safety and violence prevention. Since the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School February 14, 2018 and other school shootings, our nation has been engaged in essential dialogue and advocacy related to school safety, violence prevention and promoting healthy school environments that facilitate greater academic achievement. Safety is a top concern for our communities and those of us that work within a school setting. Violence, injury and unaddressed student mental health concerns can create climates within the school setting that inhibit learning while adversely affecting the wellbeing of students and school personnel across the United States (Astor, Benbenishty, & Marachi, 2010). As a result, we are faced with a public health issue that requires a balanced and comprehensive integrated approach that focuses on the physical and mental wellbeing of all individuals connected to the school community including students, families, school personnel and community members. Senator Nelson truly values the expertise and knowledge of her constituents. She supports the flexible use of school safety revenue to include funding for school employed mental health providers such as Licensed School Social Workers. She visits schools in her district regularly to ensure that she understands the issues and needs facing our students, educators and education as a whole. A group of Rochester School Social Workers witnessed this first hand when they spent 1 ½ hour last Winter meeting with Senator Nelson to discuss school safety and the role of School Social Workers. This year Senator Nelson visited Rachel’s school and she had the opportunity to show the Senator her office as well as talk more about her role as a SSW and how her expertise adds value to the educational community and school safety efforts. Senator Nelson’s time and investment in understanding the issues facing not only students and families in her district but across Minnesota as well as her openness to continue to access school social workers expertise  as a resource is very much appreciated by our members. In appreciation for Senator Nelson’s leadership and ongoing advocacy for children, youth, families, schools and communities, it is our honor to present the 2019 MSSWA Legislator of the Year Award to Senator Nelson.

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