Honoring Social Work Heroes: National Association of Social Workers – NJ Chapter Announces 2022 Award Recipients for Excellence in Social Work

TRENTON, NJ – March is Social Work Month, a time dedicated to celebrating the essential work done by social workers in our state and lifting up the outstanding work and accomplishments of our friends, colleagues and like-minded partners. In keeping with this tradition, today, the National Association of Social Workers – NJ Chapter (NASW-NJ) announced the recipients of their 2022 Awards for Social Work Excellence.

Recipients being honored this year include:

The NASW-NJ Social Worker of the Year award recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of a social worker and member of the Association who has made demonstrable contributions to the social work community, the community as a whole, or to their organization. This year’s recipient, Ms. Lakeesha Eure, LCSW, is Director of the Office of Violence Prevention in the Department of Health and Community Wellness for the City of Newark and the longtime Chair of the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition. She is a respected grassroots leader highly committed to reducing violence in the community.

“Ms. Eure is at the forefront of efforts to reimagine public safety and violence prevention in Newark,” said Jennifer Thompson, MSW, Executive Director of NASW-NJ. “She has taken her traumatic first-hand experiences with gun violence and murder and used those occurrences to fuel her passion for change. Since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, public officials from the President of the United State to local mayors and town councils have singled out the social work profession as one best equipped to meet 21st century challenges in public safety and violence prevention. Ms. Eure is making good on the promise of our profession.”

The Emerging Leader Award recognizes newer social workers and members who have already made significant contributions to the Association and/or the profession and have demonstrated the potential for leadership and continuing service. Dr. La’Tesha Sampson, President and Founder of Great Joy Counseling and Consulting Services, has been a rapidly rising name in Union County political circles and in the social work profession. She has served as a professor in the Master of Social Work departments at the University of New England, Rutgers University, and the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College and is currently a professor at the Kean University Department of Social Work. Dr. La’Tesha is a philanthropist and has partnered, sponsored, and assisted numerous nonprofit initiatives globally including programs in Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, India, Ghana, Mexico, and Egypt.

Said Thompson, “Dr. La’Tesha began serving as the chair of the NASW-NJ Political Action for Candidate Election (PACE) Committee several years and has since grown and expanded her role and reach. She is currently serving as a Trustee on the NASW National PACE Committee, helping to steer the organization’s presidential and congressional endorsements and influence. I’ve witnessed Dr. La’Tesha’s growth as a leader in the community and among social workers first-hand and it’s been a privilege to work with her.”

The Academic of the Year award recognizes an individual in social work academia who is a member of the Association and who has made significant contributions to the world of higher education. The 2022 recipient, Dr. Anne Deepak, Associate Professor of Social Work at Monmouth University, is an award-winning scholar whose work focuses on developing and applying a postcolonial feminist social work perspective to global social issues, including food security, human trafficking, humanitarian initiatives for women’s economic empowerment, social work practice with refugees and immigrants, and sustainability and population growth. Her other scholarly work and interests are focused on diversity and anti-racism in social work education and in exploring globalization and international partnerships through research on the experiences and impact of international volunteers.

“Dr. Deepak’s work exemplifies what it means to be a social worker and social work educator,” said Thompson. “Her global focus on the needs of underprivileged populations and humanitarian crises throughout the world engages students, broadens their perspectives, and encourages them to think about social work’s role in addressing these issues. In her time at Monmouth University, Dr. Deepak has influenced the education and careers of hundreds of fledgling social workers, preparing them for the work ahead in confronting some of the most complex issues of our time.”

“We are very proud that Dr. Deepak is being recognized by NASW-NJ as the Academic of the Year. Anne has made a number of contributions to our school and program, the most recent being her work as co-chair of our Growing Together as Allies Committee. This is a group of faculty, administrators, students, and social work alumni who are committed to advancing anti-racism in our school, the University, and the community,” Robin S. Mama, Ph.D., dean of the School of Social Work at Monmouth University, said.

The NASW-NJ Organization of the Year award recognizes the outstanding accomplishments by an organization that serves the community and has made demonstrable contributions to the broader social work community and/or community at large over the course of the year. The organization must demonstrate a commitment to the values and ethics of the social work profession and commitment to advancing the work through partnership and advocacy.

“We are honored to accept this award from NASW-NJ. The PROUD Center is committed to providing a safe, supportive environment where members of the LGBTQIA+ community are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve,” said Tony Cava, president and chief executive officer at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset. “We continue to grow and expand our services to ensure that our patients have access to the health care services they need throughout each stage of their lives.”

“We are delighted to recognize The Babs Siperstein PROUD Center for its forward-thinking work in meeting the unique needs of underserved populations,” said Thompson. “Rather than scale back services in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Center increased its client base to more than 1,000 individuals in need. While the LGBTQIA+ community is under attack in many spaces, the PROUD Center is leading the charge to ensure they receive the care and support they need to survive and thrive.”

Awardees will be honored at a reception this afternoon


Founded in 1955, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world, with more than 100,000 members. The New Jersey Chapter is the second largest chapter in the United States, with more than 6,500 members. NASW-NJ works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members, to create and maintain professional standards, and to advance sound social policies. Learn more at www.naswnj.org.

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