Scholarships Help Bilingual Social Work Students Achieve Dreams
September 1, 2008
Guadalupe Arvizo, The University of Texas at Arlington, has been providing social services to Spanish-speaking clients in Dallas for two years. She said that treatment for crises must be delivered in a timely manner to be effective, but the waiting list for services is much longer for speakers of languages other than English.
"I used to buy into the myth that Latinos do not seek out counseling services, but the reality is that the language barrier is an obstacle that must be overcome," she said.
Arvizo earned a bachelor's degree in 2006 and wanted to pursue a master's degree, but the fear of taking on the added financial burden kept her from moving forward. Yet she realized through her work that many families' needs weren't being addressed at all or in a timely manner due to language barriers.
"I became even more determined to work toward a master's degree. I knew I had to do it; I just didn't know how it was going to happen," she said. "This scholarship was the deciding factor for me and has provided what I need. I look forward to completing my degree and providing an even higher level of service to non-English speaking populations."
Salvador Luna Jr., Stephen F. Austin State University, wants to become a mental health services provider in the public school system, mentoring at-risk youth who otherwise might not have access to mental health care.
Luna began his career as a bilingual juvenile probation officer in Angelina County, providing information on mental health services, translating during home visits and advocating for Spanish-speaking families. He is going back to school to help narrow the gap in services due to language barriers.
"Texas has a tough task of meeting the needs of one of its largest ethnic populations," he said. "I have often been frustrated by the lack of mental health services available to Hispanic families because of the language barrier."
"The scholarship has expedited my goal of obtaining a master's degree in social work, which will allow me to better serve consumers in the future," he said.
Diana Molina, The University of Texas at San Antonio, plans to work in public school systems along the Texas–Mexico border to improve students' educational experiences.
Since 1993 Molina has worked in Laredo schools with children and families affected by disabilities. She has seen an increase in the diagnoses of attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder in children and adolescents. She also said students are experiencing more severe symptoms of these disorders, and they seem to be diagnosed at younger ages.
"The scholarship has provided the opportunity for me to pursue a graduate school education and apply effective evidence-based practice in working with students and their families," she said.
Alma Ramirez, Texas A&M University–Commerce, wants to work with families and children and help people manage problems in the workplace. She believes the social work graduate program will make her more knowledgeable, confident and better equipped to provide culturally competent bilingual mental health services.
Ramirez has worked with Spanish-speaking clients at the SAFE-T Crisis Center and a child development center in the Mount Pleasant public school district. She also volunteered at a local women's shelter and worked with teens struggling in school. As a translator, she has seen the frustration of clients and counselors struggling with language barriers.
"I learned English as a second language and I understand exactly how people feel when they have a translator in counseling or training, especially if it has to do with their emotional life and mental issues," she said. "I want to empower others the same way people have empowered me, by sharing their support, understanding, encouragement and life experiences."