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updated: 3/13/2013 10:13 AM

Human Services Event to Showcase New Harper Program

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Erin Brooks

Two years ago, Harper College developed a new associate degree on the premise of helping others. This week, that Human Services program and its faculty, staff and students will take center stage at a Harper-hosted conference aimed at inspiring human services professionals from across the Midwest and piquing the interest of those interested in the expanding field.

"Some students in our program started because they've overcome challenges and want to give back. Others have spent their lives just wanting to help people. The Human Services field gives them those opportunities, and the opportunities are growing every day," says Valerie Walker, who heads up Harper's program. "Our graduates are landing jobs and making a difference in the community, and this event will really provide an inside look at what we do."

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Amid a rough-and-tumble job market, jobs in Human Services -- an industry encompassing a variety of roles in educational and medical settings, from social work liaisons and youth workers to mental health technicians and senior living aides -- are growing.

"America's aging baby boomer population will add to the career opportunities," Walker notes, "and these are jobs you can't outsource."

The Midwest Organization for Human Services Annual Conference runs from Thursday, March 14 to Saturday, March 16 on Harper's main campus, 1200 W. Algonquin Road in Palatine. It is open to all, and walk-in registration will be avaialble.

The event will include insight from Harper and national experts on counseling, psychology, social work, human rights, law enforcement and more.

Harper launched its Human Services associate degree in the fall of 2010, training students for jobs in a variety of environments -- from shelters for abused women or the homeless to programs for the developmental disabled, geriatric centers and hospice care. The program relies on community partnerships and a student-fueled Human Services Club to offer hands-on training. Graduates can transfer to complete a bachelor's degree.

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