Friday, December 8, 2023

Meet a Roadrunner: UTSA alumna helps families grieve

Meet a Roadrunner: UTSA alumna helps families grieve

UTSA alumna Laura Villarreal is committed to the mission of the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas.

(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.”

Jennifer Alejos

Do you know a Roadrunner who is achieving great things? Email us at so that we may consider your suggestion for our next installment of Meet a Roadrunner.

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UTSA’s Mission

The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

UTSA’s Vision

To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.

UTSA’s Core Values

We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.

UTSA’S Destinations

UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education .

Our Commitment to Inclusivity

The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to promoting access for all. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.