Making a Difference: A Q&A with Hogg Bilingual Scholar Victoria Reyes

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The Hogg Bilingual Scholarship Program funds scholarships for gifted and hard-working bilingual master of social work (MSW) students at all 12 Texas schools of social work that are accredited by the National Council on Social Work Education. The program attempts to address the need for greater linguistic and cultural competency in the state’s mental health workforce.

We caught up with Victoria Reyes, MSW, a recent graduate of the master of social work program at the University of Houston, to ask her about her experiences as a Hogg Bilingual Scholarship recipient.

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’m a Houston native, born and raised, and I am a proud University of Houston (UH) Cougar. I received my undergraduate degree in psychology from UH, and just completed my master’s in social work from there as well. I come from a very close-knit Hispanic family and enjoy spending as much time with my family as possible.
  2. What originally made you gravitate to social work as a profession? While working at the Children’s Assessment Center of Harris County, I developed my passion for social work. I wanted to be a voice for those who could not speak for themselves. I was especially interested in working with Spanish-speaking populations as I saw first hand the growing need for bilingual professionals in this field.
  3. What/who was your favorite class/professor that you took over the last two years? And why? I had the privilege of being surrounded by wonderful professionals in the field of social work. However, I have to say that my participation in the trauma fellowship was without a doubt the best part of my program. I had the opportunity to work with Prof. Sandra Lopez, who coincidentally was also my scholarship program mentor. Overall, it was a wonderful experience. I was able to work with a population that I was passionate about, and I gained a tremendous amount of experience.
  4. How has the Hogg Bilingual Scholarship helped you achieve your career aspirations? Without the Hogg Bilingual Scholarship, I would not have been able to achieve my goal of completing graduate school. I simply did not have the means.
  5. Now that you have graduated, what do you plan on doing next? I am currently working with an organization that focuses on serving undocumented minors, and I am providing services as a bilingual clinician. I plan on passing my LMSW exam this month and starting to accrue my clinical hours for my LCSW.
  6. What have been some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in working toward your master’s degree? The most challenging thing that I’ve endured in life has been losing my father to cancer. Having to go through this difficult time while in graduate school was even more devastating. I was lucky enough to have such a strong support system not only in my personal life, but in my academic career as well. I’m thankful for people like Prof. Lopez, who helped get me through such a dark time in my life.
  7. Why are culturally and linguistically competent social workers important and why do you think the Hogg Foundation’s program is important? I don’t think that it is enough to be bilingual when serving a specific population. There needs to be a level of cultural awareness that will allow the consumer to feel safe and comfortable in not only seeking out services, but continuing with them as well. I am grateful for the Hogg Bilingual Scholarship program, because it recognizes the true value of culturally and linguistically competent social workers in the mental health arena.
  8. What have you learned about yourself between the time you started your graduate studies and today? Any lessons or advice for anyone thinking of following in your path? Graduate school is definitely a place to learn and grow, on an academic level and on a personal level. I feel that I am much more comfortable in my own skin, and have gained a level of confidence that allows me to feel more competent in providing services. I’ve learned that it’s ok to not know all the answers and to make mistakes, as long as you take responsibility and grow from that experience. I’ve learned that learning itself is a lifelong journey, and I would recommend that anyone, regardless of age, current career path, or even fear, follow their dreams to achieve whatever they’ve set out to do. I will, however, advise those interested in the social work field to ensure that they have a good support system in place, and to DEFINITELY have a good self-care plan in place.
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