The USC School of Social Work honored USC football coach Pete Carroll for his efforts to reduce violence and social worker J. David Hawkins for his advances in prevention science at “A Celebration of the Heart,” the school’s scholarship gala held March 8 at Town & Gown.
This year’s Crystal Heart, the school’s highest honor for community service, paid tribute to Carroll for his work with inner-city youth and A Better L.A., a nonprofit organization he founded in 2003 to promote change in Los Angeles communities.
Through A Better L.A., Carroll empowers people and communities from within to facilitate change, foster growth and break the cycle of violence that plagues some of the city’s most crime-ridden areas.
USC President Steven B. Sample, who introduced Carroll at the event, said he is far more than a football coach and that his impact is felt throughout the city.
“To his players, he is a teacher, a motivator, a father figure; to the people throughout Los Angeles, he is a role model, a hero, a celebrity; and to the young men in this community, he is an influential person who listens, who understands and most important, who cares,” Sample said.
Carroll – who used his relationships with leaders from the private, nonprofit, social service, law enforcement, education and faith-based sectors to create and support his mission – said the premise of A Better L.A. was and still is to save lives.
“Our message has become very clear,” he said. “We are just hopefully bringing some message of hope to areas where there is none.”
Hawkins, the Endowed Professor of Prevention and founding director of the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington School of Social Work in Seattle, was awarded the Flynn Prize for Research.
The award is an internationally competitive prize that recognizes a scholar whose interdisciplinary research has achieved high social impact and a demonstrable change in the lives of vulnerable populations. It comes with a gold medallion and a $20,000 honorarium.
“This prize is such an honor because our work is aimed at trying to make a difference in the real world, and this is validation of the advances of prevention science in promoting the healthy, social, emotional and behavioral development of America’s young people,” he said.
For nearly 30 years, Hawkins has been studying the development of positive and problem behaviors among adolescents and young adults. His longitudinal study, begun in 1981, has followed 808 Seattle elementary school students who are now 33 years old. From this group, researchers have learned that everyday caretakers – teachers, parents, guardians – can achieve amazing results when provided the knowledge, skills and tools of prevention science, Hawkins said.
Results include cutting school dropout rates in half, significantly reducing heavy alcohol use and lifetime violence by age 18, significantly reducing the rate of sexually transmitted diseases among children, cutting the rate of diagnosable mental health disorders and significantly increasing the education and economic success of young Americans, he added.
Also at the event, M�nica Garc�a, president of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, was presented the W. June Simmons Distinguished Alumna Award, and Jose Gutierrez was recognized as the first recipient of the Pete Carroll Scholarship. The Simmons award recognized Garc�a, who is also a 2001 MSW graduate, for her commitment to improving the education system and the lives of at-risk youth.
Proceeds from the evening helped establish the Pete Carroll Scholarship for students who pursue graduate study at the USC School of Social Work.