February, 2012Texas State University-San Marcos graduate students Andres Garcia, Kathryn Kelly, Ana Gabriela Mejia and Adriana Peabody have been awarded scholarships by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health to support bilingual mental health services in Texas. All are students in the School of Social Work.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in social work from Texas State, Garcia decided to obtain a master’s degree to pursue a career in social work. His internship with Child Protective Services of San Antonio, where he assisted caseworkers in a variety of settings, further cemented his resolve.
“Through my work as a volunteer and working with various populations, I knew a master’s degree in social work would help me provide the best possible service to those in need,” Garcia said.
After earning a degree in English from Flagler College in Florida, Kelly had a strong desire to help those in need. Most recently she was a children’s advocate for the Hope Alliance at the Williamson County Crisis Center, where she assessed children’s emotional, physical, social and educational needs. She also provided crisis intervention for an average of six families a week.
“After working in Mexico, I have a high level of cultural and linguistic understanding. Advancing my education will allow me to better serve the Latino population,” Kelly said.
Passionate about helping others, Mejia decided to pursue a degree in social services. She majored in family and child development as an undergraduate at Texas State and is now obtaining her master’s in social work so she can further serve families and their children.
“I am excited to serve this community and use my knowledge in children’s development to help those with mental health challenges,” Mejia said.
After getting a degree in fine arts from the University of Arizona, Peabody began volunteering as a bilingual mentor to young children at SafePlace in Austin. Her experience sparked a fire within her to help people.
“As my passion grew for the people I met at SafePlace, I knew I had to pursue a master’s in social work so I could better serve this community,” she said. “As a bilingual person, I can provide much-needed services to the Spanish-speaking population.”
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 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.