Thursday, June 17, 2010

UW School of Social Work honors Rep. Pettigrew with 2010 Distinguished Alumni Award

Since 1989, the University of Washington’s School of Social Work has recognized a Distinguished Alumnus or Alumna for their continued commitment to promoting social and economic justice. The award is presented to alumni who have shown distinction through outstanding service or innovation in clinical casework practice, social work administration, scholarship and research, education, professional leadership, community and public service, or advocacy.

This year, state Rep. Eric Pettigrew, a 1987 UW Master of Social Work (MSW) graduate, was honored for his excellence and achievement in advocacy.

As a child, thoughts of attending a four-year university were just as difficult to imagine as becoming a state representative. For Pettigrew, excelling beyond the challenging circumstances of his youth has been a product of family support, determination and education. Raised in South-Central Los Angeles, Pettigrew didn’t have to read the newspaper to find out about the latest muggings, shootings and other acts of gang violence – a significant amount of it took place in his own neighborhood.

In 1987, Pettigrew not only graduated with a MSW degree from the University of Washington, but also with a newfound hope for improving the lives of underprivileged and underrepresented individuals and communities. “At that moment, more opportunities than I had ever imagined were within reach,” Pettigrew said. “I knew it was time to get to work and show young people that where you start in life doesn’t have to determine where you’ll finish.”

Since receiving his MSW, Pettigrew has worked in a variety of jobs in government, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector. He worked as Deputy Chief of Staff for Public Safety to Seattle Mayor Norm Rice, a recruiter to increase diversity in the UW School of Social Work, and the director of the Minority Youth Health Project, which reduced teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease rates in Seattle.

Among Pettigrew’s numerous legislative achievements, he has secured funds to prevent youth violence, as well as supported an in-depth look at inequities and disproportionality among minority youth in education. Pettigrew also serves as the Chair of the House Health & Human Services Appropriations Committee, and he has been selected to serve on the Joint Select Committee on Health Care Reform.