The University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) graduate students Bianca Guajardo, Nancy Lopez, Estela Martinez, Elma Moreno and Anedia Pineda have been awarded scholarships by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health to support bilingual mental health services in Texas. All are students in the Department of Social Work.
Guajardo graduated with a degree in social work from UTPA. As a native of the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, she is acutely aware of the needs of the Hispanic population and aims to work with this underserved community.
"I am pursuing a master's degree in social work so that I can use my knowledge and skills to advocate for positive change that will benefit the Latino community and help those with mental illness," Guajardo said.
With a desire to serve her community and to be the first in her family to graduate from college, Lopez received a degree in social work from UTPA. Lopez has a strong desire to use her skills to benefit the community.
"As a bilingual person, I want to use my master's degree to work with Spanish-speaking individuals, advocating for their needs without linguistic and cultural barriers," Lopez said.
Martinez graduated with a social work degree from the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College. Martinez seeks to further her education by receiving a master's degree in social work so she can directly serve people with mental illness in her community.
"I want to serve the people with the greatest need in our community, especially those in the Latino community who suffer from social stratification. I want to use my degree to help people address mental health challenges," Martinez said.
Moreno chose a career in social work so she could achieve her dream of helping others and received a bachelor's degree in this field from UTPA. She worked with migrant and immigrant families for more than 17 years as an advocate and is pursuing a master's in social work so she can continue to advocate for those in need.
"Furthering my education will give me the opportunity to help change society's perspective and better serve people with mental health challenges," Moreno said.
Growing up in a Latino family, Pineda has first-hand experience with the need for culturally and linguistically competent services. She graduated with a degree in social work from Hope College in Michigan and decided to pursue a master's degree so she could enhance her skills and knowledge and better serve people with mental illness.
"I want to use my master's degree to have a greater impact on my community and remove obstacles often caused by misunderstanding," Pineda said.
Now in its fourth year, the bilingual scholarship program has awarded a total of 109 scholarships since fall 2008 to increase cultural and linguistic diversity in the Texas mental health workforce.
"This innovative scholarship program directly addresses the critical need for a more culturally and linguistically competent mental health workforce," said Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., executive director of the Hogg Foundation. "We are excited to infuse the workforce with talented and highly qualified students who have these added skills that are in such high demand now."
Scholarship recipients receive full tuition and fees. Recipients must be fluent in English and a second language chosen by the graduate program, typically Spanish. They also must commit to working in Texas after graduation providing mental health services for a period equal to the timeframe of the scholarship. Scholarships are available at all 12 Texas graduate schools of social work that are accredited or pending accreditation by the national Council on Social Work Education.
Studies have shown populations of color and those who speak a language other than English are under-represented in social work and mental health professions in Texas. As a result, many people may not have access to mental health services that adequately meet their cultural and linguistic needs.
Language differences can be a huge barrier in providing effective mental health services. Even when language barriers are overcome, subtle nuances such as world view, cultural beliefs, religion, family traditions and cultural norms can sometimes interfere with delivering effective treatment. The scholarships are one of many ways in which the Hogg Foundation is working to increase cultural and linguistic awareness, knowledge and skills among mental health service providers in Texas.
The Hogg Foundation advances recovery and wellness in Texas by funding mental health services, policy analysis, research and public education. The foundation was created in 1940 by the children of former Texas Governor James S. Hogg, and is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin.