Touro Students Awarded First Scholarships In New Program

February 25, 2016

Latino scholarship students1Three graduate students at the Touro College Graduate School of Social Work have been awarded scholarships from the Latino Social Work Coalition and Scholarship Fund.The Latino Social Work Coalition and Scholarship Fund, is a group comprised of the Puerto Rican Family Institute and the New York City Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, to address the shortage of Latino social workers in New York City.

Tapped for the awards are Vanessa Rosa and Jamie Hernandez, first-year MSW students, and Marie Reyes, a second-year student. Each of the students have been awarded scholarships for their academic achievements, current or past work experience and their commitment to serving the Latino community. 

“These awards mark the launch of a new scholarship program in collaboration with Touro to increase the number of Latino  social workers needed to better serve the increased demand for linguistically and culturally-sensitive services to the Latino community,” said Dr. Steven Huberman, founding dean of the graduate school. 

“Research shows that eighty six percent of licensed social workers are white with diverse ethnic backgrounds, while 4.3 percent self-identify as Latino. This is due to the lack of enrollment of Latinos in master’s level degree programs, which is often due to lack of financial resources,” said Professor Annecy Baez of the GSSW, quoting from a recent journal article.

Prof. Baez, who serves as the Touro students’ advisor, referred to such findings as “the driving force” behind the new scholarship program.

Citing the United States Census, she added that in 2014, Latinos comprised 17 percent of the total U.S. population (55 million), amounting to the nation’s largest ethnic and racial minority. As the Latino population increases, there will be a greater need for culturally competent social workers to provide services to the community, she said. 

Ms. Rosa, a graduate of Hunter College, started out in social work in 2009, helping homeless families at a non-profit agency in the Bronx. Today she works at the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where, she says, “Working with my clients to help them build a new life is extremely fulfilling. They motivate me to make recovery a reality for people suffering from mental disabilities. They are my inspiration.”

Like all of the scholarship winners, Ms. Rosa is pleased to help fill the need for social workers familiar with Latino culture. “A lot of the community does not speak English. A lot of times I go to government agencies and see people…struggling to get their requests across,” she said.  

Mr. Hernandez, a graduate of Mercy College, agrees. He is also is working while going to school – as a caseworker at Montefiore Hospital. Previously he worked relocating homeless families within the New York City shelter system. Mr. Hernandez said, “Latino communities need someone they can trust, someone they can believe in.”

He recalled a recent situation where a family member quit a job to care for an elderly parent against the advice of the client’s social worker, who instead advocated nursing home care.

“Most Latinos don’t believe in nursing home placement for elderly parents. They believe in caring for them at home, whenever possible. There are not enough social workers in the Latino community who understand that culture and point of view,” he said.

Interning as a therapist at the Puerto Rican Family Institute and working full-time at the Legal Aid Society, second-year student Marie Reyes sees the need in both work settings, where Latinos are well-represented among the client population. The need was the determining factor in her decision to eventually move from working as a paralegal to social work, she said.

“I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in social work,” Ms. Reyes wrote in her scholarship application, “The first course that I took at Touro College has further confirmed my ambition for this field.”

About the Touro College and University System

Touro is a system of non-profit institutions of higher and professional education. Touro College was chartered in 1970 primarily to enrich the Jewish heritage, and to serve the larger American and global community. Approximately 18,000 students are currently enrolled in its various schools and divisions. Touro College has 29 branch campuses, locations and instructional sites in the New York area, as well as branch campuses and programs in Berlin, Jerusalem and Moscow. New York Medical College, Touro University California and its Nevada branch campus, as well as Touro University Worldwide and its Touro College Los Angeles division are separately accredited institutions within the Touro College and University System. For further information on Touro College, please go to:

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