On January 22, Berkeley Social Welfare’s newly established Latinx Center of Excellence (LCOE) honored its first cohort of stipend recipients. Comprising 20 students in their first or second year of the MSW program, the awardees were selected for their demonstrated passion and experience serving Latinx communities; motivation to provide behavioral health care in various settings; and bilingualism in Spanish.
The stipend program is part of the LCOE’s multi-faceted approach to its mission of “addressing the relative paucity of Latinx/Hispanic students in social welfare at the graduate level” as well as meeting the pressing demand for “culturally-competent, bilingual/bicultural social workers to serve Latinx clients with health and behavioral/mental health needs.” In addition to financial grants, LCOE offers enhanced training in behavioral health as well as mentorship activities to support its scholars.
Among the 2017-18 stipend recipients exemplifying the notable work being done are Berkeley Social Welfare students Alicia Landman and Brandon Ruvalcaba, whose respective field placements focus on service to Latinx communities throughout the Bay Area.
Landman is currently interning at Familias Unidas, where she works directly with Latinx clients in Contra Costa County whose mental health symptoms impede their ability to meet social, familial and personal needs. “Currently, I am working with two adults and three youth, providing mental health support through clinical assessments and individual therapy as well as case management when clients are in need of additional resources,” she explains. “The goal of the work is to support clients in healing trauma while empowering them to develop coping mechanisms that will allow for improved social, emotional and familial relationships.”
In Ruvalcaba’s internship at Casa del Sol, the community behavioral health department of La Clínica de la Raza, he works with low-income and uninsured Latino and Spanish-speaking residents of Alameda County living with mental illness. The Oakland-based agency, as Ruvalcaba notes, has “historically been at the forefront of serving Latinos who would not otherwise receive adequate treatment,” and he is currently providing psychotherapy to individuals and their families as part of his field placement.
“I plan to continue my service for the Latino community,” he says about his immediate plans following graduation from Berkeley Social Welfare’s MSW program. “I am especially committed to continue efforts in reducing mental health disparities for the Latino community and other historically marginalized populations through contributions in direct practice and research.”
In addition to Landman and Ruvalcaba, this year’s LCOE stipend recipients are MSW students Evelyn Aguiar, Sinead Aguilar Miramontes, Sylvia Bracamonte, Sara Briseno, Mayra Cazares, Marilyn de la Cruz, Paola Escobedo, Jenhi Garcia, Cristina Gomez-Vidal, Omar Alan Gutierrez Pimental, Edwin Lopez, Karina Lopez, Marlene Meza, Emma Rodbro, Allison Rodriguez, Roberto Santiago, Ana-Alicia Solis and Karina Sweitzer. Certificates were presented to the awardees by LCOE Director Luna Calderon, with LCOE Program Manager Lissette Flores and Berkeley Social Welfare faculty and LCOE mentors Adrian Aguilera and Kurt Organista also in attendance.
Each MSW first-year awardee receives $8,000 and each MSW second-year awardee receives $10,000. Berkeley Social Welfare is proud to congratulate the inaugural class of LCOE stipend recipients.