Skip to Content

2019 College of Applied Arts Banquet, School of Social Work Award Recipients

Lorena Banda

BSW Overall Award

Lorena is a bilingual Bachelor of Social Work Student that is currently an intern at the Texas State Capitol with Representative Senfronia Thompson. Lorena’s work experience includes a City Ambassador Intern with San Antonio District 4 council office, an Undergraduate Research Assistant, College Forward Quarter Time Coach with AmeriCorps, and a Peer Assistance Leader at Texas State. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Unit 6875-B.


Anahi Villarruel

BSW Service

Anahi is a bilingual Bachelor of Social Work Student currently interning at Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos. She has volunteered as a Historian Officer for the Alpha Chi Honor Society, Cyclist Member of the Texas State Cycling Club, a Taichi Participant with Connect Across Generations, and a Heart to Heart Hospice volunteer.


Lesly Martinez

BSW Outstanding Field

Lesly is a bilingual Bachelor of Social Work student currently interning at College in the Schools Houston. She has volunteered with the San Marcos Housing Authority, Bobcat Build, PACE Mentoring, Latina Unidas, Texas State Emerging Leaders Program, Greater San Marcos Youth Council, and Richmond Attack Poverty.  She has also studied abroad in Queretaro, Mexico.


Alycia Speasmaker

SSW Research

Alycia is a research assistant and recently presented at the work “Preventative Dental are in Asian Americans: Does Neighborhood Matter?” and at the Texas State Health Scholar Showcase. She has also co-authored work under review entitled, “Trend in Internet Use Among Older Adults in the U.S. 2011-2016.” She is a Policy Associate at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and has volunteered as an ESL teacher and office administrator at the Center for Refugee Services. She also has volunteered for political campaigns, Camp to Success, Abode Contemplative Care for the Dying, San Antonio Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Hurricane Katrina & Harvey relief, Food Security Initiative, San Antonio College Board member, Summer day-camp counselor for children in low SES San Antonio neighborhoods, and has taught art, writing, and music workshops for Northeast Bible Church children’s ministry.


Zuleyka Vargas

MSW Outstanding Field Fall 2018

Zuleyka graduated in December 2018 with her Master of Social Work degree. She has worked as a case manager with a child placing agency and her passion and commitment to social work was evident during her Fall 2018 internship.


Jonathan M. Wilcoxen

MSW Outstanding Field Spring 2019

Jonathan is a Master of Social Work Student currently interning at the Austin State Hospital. He is a Board-Certified Music Therapist and an educator and instructor at the Austin State Hospital. Jonathan’s presentations at the Austin State Hospital include “LGBTQIA+ Best Practices for Inpatient Psychiatric Settings,”  “Self-Care: Taking care of our mind, body, and spirit,” “LGBTQ+ Youth in Mental Health Settings,” and “Trauma Informed Care with Children and Adolescent Clients. ” Jonathan has served on several committees at the Austin State Hospital and recently received the Austin State Hospital Employee of the Month. He has also been awarded the Ed/Rehab Professional Excellence Noted (PEN) Award five times. Jonathan has also served as the president of the Mu Phi Epsilon, Professional Music Fraternity and was an Eagle Scout.


Selena Soriano

MSW Advanced

Selena is a graduate of the Master of Social Work program in December 2018. She currently is the Assistant Committee Director, House Committee on Public Health for Representative Senfronia Thompson. She was a Policy analyst for Rep. Thompson as well as her legislative policy intern for Fall 2018. Selena worked as a CPS specialist in conservatorship for three years. She is bilingual and a great leader.


Rusty A. Carter

MSW Online

Rusty is an online Master of Social Work student. He was a Team Leader, Assistant Squad Leader, and Company Trainer for the Military Police in the United States Army for over 6 years. He has also served as a Veteran Liaison for Collin College. He is currently an intake manager for 22 Kill, a program and resource center for veterans in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas.


Elyse Greenamyre

Terri O’Gara Murdock Scholarship and MSW Service Award

Elyse is a Youth Recovery Leader with the non- profit Cenikor foundation and a Master of Social Work Student. She is the Vice President of Accept- Texas, a group that works to give youth and young adults a voice and leadership opportunities to may systemic change in their communities. In October 2017 she founded the Student Recovery Alliance in partnership with the Student Health Center. Since this time she has facilitated each weekly meeting and plans all of their events and presentations. Through all of these roles Elyse passionately gets to share her experience, strength, and hope by working with and advocating for others. 


Daisy Rodriguez

Karen Brown Social Work Scholarship

Daisey is a Master of Social Work Student and her career goal is to become a licensed clinical social worker specializing in work with children or military personnel. She is the first generation in her family to obtain a bachelor’s degree and pursue a master’s degree.


Norma Mercado

Henton-Pacheco Scholarship

Norma’s passion for social work began at the age of 16 when she became pregnant and faced many challenges including homelessness, poverty, and discrimination. She reported this helped her navigate the system, identify gaps in programs and services and it motivated her to help others who were facing the same challenges. Norma was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and migrated with her mother and brother every year from Mexico to Lodi, California. She stated the experience equipped her with skills to connect with each culture, understand the struggles and barriers for migrant families and I learned to navigate the system in two different countries.

Norma is employed full-time as the Homeless, Foster Care and Parent Liaison for the Bastrop Independent School District (BISD) and a board member of the Texas Homeless Network. Her goals while employed at BISD is to end youth homelessness, increase parent and family engagement and improve student achievement for at-risk students. Her work experience includes 18 years of case management and advocating for children and families. Norma has worked for non-profit agencies such as Head Start, Early Head Start, WIC (Women, Infant and Children), and Del Valle Independent School District. She is also the youth director at her local church. Norma’s long-term goal is to expand her knowledge as a micro-level social worker and continue to advocate for children, adolescent and families in rural communities. She would like to continue to identifying gaps in services, removing barriers and implementing programs that provide opportunities for equal access and increase resiliency.


Heidi Simon

Henton-Pacheco Scholarship

Heidi is a Master of Social Work student. Her parents’ nonprofit work in Peru laid the foundation for her to go into social and human services. Once she moved to the United States, she wanted to continue to help those who were marginalized. She has volunteered as a mentor and facilitated small group discussions with young woman surrounding identity and cultivating relationships during her undergraduate work. Heidi also volunteered with a reading program at Travis Elementary School designed to increase student’s reading comprehension skills. She spent time in the cleanup efforts in the aftermath of the historic flooding that hit San Marcos in 2015 and in Rockport after Hurricane Harvey. Her goals are to work with immigration services, specifically with Hispanic immigrants who are currently within the immigration system. Immigration is close to her heart as she comes from a family of immigrants whose stories of hard work and perseverance are what inspired her to keep pressing forward.


Richard Martinez

Dorothy Jean & Walter Richter Scholarship

Richard is a bilingual Master of Social Work student who hopes to one day advocate for vulnerable children and families. He has served as a CASA volunteer and volunteer firefighter. For the past four years, Richard has worked to develop, revise, and implement local policies in the Bureau of Prisons where he has a supervisory role and has received numerous acknowledgements for outstanding performance. Richard hopes to continue to affect social change in an era of emerging social issues.


Ja’Juan Smith

Dorothy Jean & Walter Richter Scholarship

Ja’Juan is a Master of Social Work student with a focus on macro practice. He would like to focus on affecting change within communities through program development and policy change. Ja’Juan has worked for Kansas Child Support Services, Mattie Rhodes Center doing outreach medical care, and the Boys and Girls Club of America. Ja’Juan recently was employed at Integral Care where he worked as a Wraparound Facilitator creating care plans for teens in crisis. He has spent time in studying abroad in Costa Rica where he gained experience as a volunteer at an orphanage and at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, India.