(Feb. 8, 2018) -- Meet Laura Villarreal ’08, ’14. This UTSA alumna is bringing awareness to mental health at the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas.
Born and raised in San Benito, Texas, Villarreal knew UTSA was the right choice after a campus tour in high school.
“When I stepped on campus and saw the community, I knew that UTSA was the one,” she said.
The four-hour commute from Villarreal’s hometown gave her a safety net. She was close to family but far enough to feel independent. Eventually, she earned both her bachelor’s and her master’s degrees in communication from UTSA.
After graduating with her master’s degree, Villarreal joined Girls Inc., a nonprofit that empowers and educates girls, as a fund development manager. From there, she climbed to development director at Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas. Her primary duties currently include coordinating partnerships and campaigns, and managing events that support the nonprofit’s community efforts.
Villarreal says that the mission of the Children’s Bereavement Center really resonates with her. In high school, she experienced the loss of two close friends to suicide within months of each other.
“In the Hispanic culture, I’ve seen that many times we aren’t given the space to grieve properly. After a certain amount of time, we dismiss it. It’s amazing to see families come through our doors wanting help during their journey of grief.”
The Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas provides free services to children and families who have been affected by the passing of a loved one. The program offers peer support groups and individual counseling to help children and young adults aged three to 24.
“What I love about my job is that our team is able to help kids and the community heal after their time of loss,” said Villarreal.
Villarreal is especially excited about the Center’s partnership between UTSA, Whataburger and other nonprofits. The community partners have joined together to provide counseling services to the families and children affected by the recent tragedy in Sutherland Springs.
“This is a full-circle moment to be working with my university and support families near my hometown.”
Villarreal is hopeful that the conversation around mental wellness will continue to expand in the future. She is eager to make a positive and sustained impact in the community.
“Going to UTSA and choosing this field of work are the best decisions I’ve ever made. The impact you make in other people’s lives is a warm, fulfilling feeling that I encourage everyone to seek in their careers.”
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