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3 Texas State students earn bilingual scholarships

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
October 27, 2009

Texas State University-San Marcos students Blanca Herrera and Tania Motta-Allen of Austin, and Diane Leal of San Antonio, are among 22 bilingual graduate social work students to receive $386,000 in full-tuition scholarships from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.

Before entering the graduate program, Leal worked with Hispanic children and families as a volunteer court-appointed special advocate for children in San Antonio. After earning her graduate degree, she hopes to provide mental health services in Spanish-speaking communities and help eradicate language and cultural barriers to treatment.

Herrera, a first-generation U.S. resident, first became aware of the growing shortage of bilingual social workers during her undergraduate studies. Her goal after graduation is to use her training, experience, knowledge and language skills to help people cope with life and social issues.

Motta-Allen, who moved to the U.S. as a child, observed an over-representation of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system when she was an undergraduate intern at the Travis County district attorney’s office. After graduate school she wants to work within the mental health and criminal justice fields.

Research has shown people who speak a language other than English are under-represented in social work and other mental health professions in Texas and the United States. As a result, they are less likely to receive effective mental health services.

To begin addressing the shortage of bilingual mental health workers in Texas, the Hogg Foundation began offering the full-tuition scholarships in fall 2008 and has awarded 51 to date. Seven previous recipients, including two from Texas State, have graduated.

“Graduate schools welcome the scholarship program because it attracts quality students and promotes academic diversity,” said Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., executive director of the foundation. “We view the program as a success because it increases the state’s mental health workforce and supports the foundation’s mission to improve mental health for all Texans.”

New students are eligible to apply for the scholarships, which cover tuition and required fees. Recipients must be accepted by one of 11 accredited graduate social work programs in Texas, be fluent in Spanish and English, and agree to work in Texas after graduation providing mental health services for a period equal to the timeframe of the scholarship.

The Hogg Foundation was founded in 1940 by the children of former Texas Governor James Hogg to promote improved mental health for the people of Texas. The foundation’s grants and programs support mental health consumer services, research, policy analysis and public education projects in Texas. The foundation is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin.

For more information, contact Merrell Foote, Hogg Foundation communications director, at merrell.foote@austin.utexas.edu or via phone at (512) 471-9142.