By Shreya Gupta
MSW students Elizabeth Antonowicz and Caroline Barcia are currently completing their field work at the Anti-Poverty Network (APN) of New Jersey, an organization that aims to eradicate poverty in the state by connecting individuals to critical resources, including housing, meals, and economic empowerment.
Through their field placement, Antonowicz and Barcia partake in a number of coalitions that advocate for reformed policies in the state legislature, such as the Protect NJ Workers Coalition. Their daily responsibilities include attending webinars and meetings that address inequities embedded within poverty, such as housing, food insecurity, healthcare, and even COVID-19. "We also get the opportunity to participate in legislative hearings that surround the policies we are advocating for," Antonowicz explains. Their work also consists of meeting with the APN's partner organizations to share progress on outreach and discussing the ways in which they can support one another to further empower their community, as well as managing the APN's social media accounts.
Another of Antonowicz and Barcia's duties is assisting in running the Garden State Leaders Program, which provides leadership and advocacy training to residents in the state that have dealt with homelessness and poverty. “Our eyes have been opened to the severe ways in which marginalized populations, especially Black communities, are impacted by the detrimental effects of poverty,” Barcia says.
A significant portion of Antonowicz and Barcia’s work involves outreach for the Affordable Care Act's open enrollment period. “The COVID-19 pandemic has further brought the importance of healthcare coverage to light - whether that be for mental health services or healthcare needs in general. There are countless individuals who are not covered, and our work with open enrollment allows us to guide people towards the resources needed to gain health insurance. As someone approaching the age of 26, learning how to get insured has been extremely helpful,” Barcia explains.
In pursuit of the management and policy concentration, Antonowicz and Barcia hope to immerse themselves in the field of macro social work, where they can advocate for social change on a broader scale. “I plan to run for office in the future, so that I can leverage my background in social work and bring about crucial improvements in policy,” Antonowicz shares.