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College of Education and Human Development at The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

Loretta Clark
Photo courtsey of Dr. Felicia Castro Villarreal


Community Service

Making an impact in the community

The UTSA School Psychology Graduate Student Organization

Every year, the members of the UTSA School Psychology Graduate Student Organization (SPGSO) log in hundreds of hours of community service. From volunteering at community awareness walks to working with the San Antonio Children’s Shelter, the SPGSO gives back to the community in more ways than one.

“I am most proud of the volunteer work the SPGSO does with inner city schools and needy families, and the presence they have in the community,” said Dr. Felicia Castro-Villarreal, associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and the SPGSO faculty advisor. “The organization sets the bar when it comes to outreach and service to schools, children, and families in need. The UTSA School Psychology Program is becoming well-known for their commitment and investment to the community.”

The organization is comprised of graduate students from the College of Education and Human Development’s (COEHD) Department of Educational Psychology. Over the last five years, they have made a lasting impact on the San Antonio community and are now turning their efforts closer to home.

Since the beginning of the year, the SPGSO has gotten more involved with the UTSA community through the Teacher Education Autism Model (TEAM) Center, a center housed within the college that provides early intensive behavioral intervention services for children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

This past October, the SPGSO coordinated the annual trick-or-treat event in the TEAM Center. The event included a Halloween party for the children and families receiving services from the TEAM Center, along with trick or treating with the college’s faculty. The organization secured food donations, organized the trick or treating route, and supplied the treats.

This year was the first year that the SPGSO worked alongside the TEAM Center staff to coordinate the event.

“I think as an organization, it was really neat to get involved with the children in the TEAM Center,” said Bianca Aguilar, SPGSO president and school psychology graduate student. “A lot of us are immersed in similar environments through our course work or our outside work. Since we usually work with the parents and families in the TEAM Center so closely, it was nice to be able to work more hands-on with the children.”

The SPGSO plans to coordinate a similar event in the spring around the Easter holiday with activities and face painting for the children and their families.

“One of our main goals as a group this year has been to get more involved in the community in whatever way that we can,” said Aguilar. “A lot of us really value service, so going into this school year, community service was something that we really wanted to do more of as a group in order to foster relationships among our cohorts.”

This December, the SPGSO participated in their annual Toys for Tots drive. Throughout the beginning of December, the organization collected new, unwrapped toys in the Psychological Assessment and Consultation Center. These gifts were wrapped by the SPGSO officers and taken to families and children in need in the community.

“My experience working with the SPGSO has been inspiring,” said Castro-Villarreal. “They lead by example and inspire others to engage in service for others. The SPGSO has had a positive impact on our entire department. In fact, most faculty members have participated in some way or another by volunteering time or donating funds and items.”

The organization, Aguilar said, hopes to continue the tradition of service to the community in the future through the TEAM Center, the San Antonio Children’s Shelter, and beyond.

“Everything we do is directed towards the children in the community, whether its directly volunteering or providing them with any resources that we can, especially during the holiday season” said Aguilar. “Through the community service that we have had the opportunity to participate in, we have really developed relationships within our group that transpose directly into our work within our respective schools and as future school psychologists.”


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