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Toccoa Falls College Student Rachel Smith Receives the Hatfield Prize from the Center for Public Justice

Rachel Smith (Toccoa Falls College ‘22) is one of three college students from across the country who has been awarded the Hatfield Prize from the Center for Public Justice (CPJ). The Hatfield Prize, part of CPJ’s Shared Justice initiative, awards funding to three student-faculty pairs from Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) institutions to research social policies that impact the wellbeing of children, families, and communities. CPJ is an independent, nonpartisan organization devoted to policy research and civic education based on Christian principles needed in a pluralistic society.

Smith, a Family and Children’s Ministry major, will research the accessibility and cultural competence of child care services in refugee communities. She will examine this topic through a case study in Clarkston, Georgia. Smith will be advised by Piljoo Kang, Ph.D.,  Associate Professor of Psychology at Toccoa Falls College.

“Childhood is a crucial period because significant development happens that sets a foundation for the rest of one’s life. Through this research, I hope to gain insight into what changes need to be made to support refugee families in accessing high quality, culturally competent child care and then offer recommendations for how to practically implement these changes,” said Smith.

“I hope this research will have a direct impact on children and families residing in Clarkston, where refugee families will have easy access to affordable and culturally informed quality child-care services,” said Kang.

“The pandemic has only exacerbated our nation’s child care crisis. Child care is something that millions of families need, but that not all are able to access or afford,” said Katie Thompson,  Program Director of Shared Justice. “Rachel’s research will illuminate the experience of recently resettled refugee families, an especially vulnerable population, and will make an important contribution to scholarship on this timely issue.”

Hatfield Prize recipients will spend the spring semester conducting research and writing. Their reports will be published in September 2022. The Hatfield Prize is made possible through the generous support of the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust and The Annie E. Casey Foundation. To learn more about the Hatfield Prize, visit https://www.sharedjustice.org/hatfieldprize2022.

Rachel Smith, Hatfield Prize RecipientRachel Smith is a senior at Toccoa Falls College and is pursuing a degree in Family and Children’s Ministry with a double minor in Bible and Theology and Outdoor Leadership and Education. She is passionate about caring for people facing difficult circumstances and enjoys helping others navigate challenges by seeking beneficial change. Specifically, Rachel hopes to work with parents and children. She believes that childhood is a crucially important time developmentally because it sets the foundation for a child’s life. She plans to minister to families by either working directly with children or by supporting and guiding parents in raising their children. While at Toccoa Falls College, she serves as a Resident Assistant in the upperclassmen dorms and also serves in Toccoa Elementary School as a third-grade mentor, where she meets with a child weekly to listen and talk about their life. In her free time, Rachel enjoys participating in outdoor activities in the North Georgia mountains, creating art projects, and investing in the community of her college campus.

Dr. Piljoo Kang, Professor of Counseling PsychologyPiljoo Kang, Ph.D., is an associate professor of psychology at Toccoa Falls College, where she teaches courses in lifespan developmental psychology, social psychology, child & family advocacy, and research methods.  She received her BA in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, Master’s degrees in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education, Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, and Linguistics from California State University, Northridge, and Ph.D. in Child and Adolescent Development from UC Santa Barbara.  Her primary line of research focuses on the sociocultural and contextual influences of family, church, and community mentors on spiritual development and psychological functioning among children and adolescents from marginalized groups.  In addition, her current research includes White racial identity development among emerging adults.  She studies the intersectionality of multiple identities, namely racial, geographical, and religious: White Southern Christian. She and her artist/dentist husband live in Georgia and love traveling, especially to visit their three grown children in Los Angeles, CA and Brooklyn, NY.

The Hatfield Prize awards funding annually to three student-faculty pairs from Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) institutions to research policies that impact vulnerable children, families, and communities. The Hatfield Prize is made possible through the generous support of the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. However, the findings and conclusions presented in The Hatfield Prize reports are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of these foundations.

Shared Justice is the Center for Public Justice’s initiative for college students and young adults exploring the intersection of faith, politics and public justice. Shared Justice provides Christian young adults with access to mentorship, a learning community, and a platform for practicing citizenship.

The Center for Public Justice is an independent, nonpartisan organization devoted to policy research and civic education. Working outside the familiar categories of right and left, conservative and liberal, we seek to help citizens and public officeholders respond to God’s call to do justice.

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