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APS social worker becomes first Black person to lead national group


Terriyln Rivers-Cannon was recently elected national president of the School Social Work Association of America, an organization with over 3,000-member associations.

Rivers-Cannon, a social worker with the Atlanta Public Schools, is the first Black and the first Georgian to hold that position in SSWAA’s nearly 30-year history. Four years ago, Rivers-Cannon, was named the organization’s National School Social Worker of the Year.

SSWAA is the only national organization solely dedicated to promoting the profession of school social work.  Its mission is to empower school social workers and promote the profession to enhance the social and emotional growth and academic outcomes of all students nationally and globally.

Past president of SSWAA, Christy McCoy said, “As the first African American President of SSWAA, Dr. Rivers-Cannon’s commitment to empowerment, racial equity, and social justice, as well as her passion for education and advocacy, will undoubtedly propel our organization to new heights.”

On her appointment, Rivers-Cannon said, “I count it as a humble blessing.”

As president, she wants to reinforce the association’s goal of responding to students’ needs proactively rather than be reactive. She is particularly concerned that there is no national mandate to have a school social worker in every school across this country and that social workers often lack the resources to do their jobs, deficits that were amplified during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Although the national recommendation is a counselor for every 250 students. A report found Georgia’s public schools have 1 school counselor for every 447 students.

For much of the past two decades, Rivers-Cannon has been a school social worker for Atlanta Public Schools. Rivers-Cannon is also the founder of Soar with K.A.T.I.E. or Karing Actions Towards Inspiring Eagles.

The nonprofit, named in honor of her Aunt Katie, provides scholarships for social work majors. She also hosts the syndicated radio talk show “Dare to Soar” with Dr. RC.


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