Reflection from the Front Lines of Higher Education

guest blogger: Hope S. Pacheco, LMSW – Dean of Students Case Manager

I look at my list of students, I see names of students who I reach out to again and again in hopes they respond, I see names of students who I had one contact with but left the door open for them to return if needed and I see the names students who took the chance to share their story, their struggle, and their goals with me.

In my role at the University of Houston, I have the privilege and honor to reach out to students in very difficult times not only their academic career, but in their life. I see students who struggle with mental health issues sometimes for the very first time or students who may have struggled for years. Often times, my students are dealing with a mental health crisis that has escalated and requires them to be treated in a facility off campus, sometimes missing class for days or weeks. You can image how disruptive this can be in the life of a college student. They may struggle with deciding when to return to campus, reducing their course load, accepting their diagnosis or their medication regiment, what to share with professors and how to reach out for help with it ALL. It is humbling experience to ask students to allow me to accompany them on this journey.

The University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work alumni in me is proud that my UH, my university saw the need for supporting our students who struggle with their mental health. Every day, it makes me proud to be a forever Coog, to know that there is institutional support for these students. I just wish every student who is struggling, knew that too. I wish the students who did not respond to my outreach efforts knew that the University cares about them not just as a student, but as a person. I work to convey that message through my outreach publications and letters.

As a social worker, I know the power of presence. I know that in every interaction I need to be present in the moment with that student. I know every moment is an opportunity to not just express care and compassion, but embody the care and compassion our students deserve. To voice this message to students, on behalf of the University of Houston, is an honor. Getting through college is hard enough, and struggling with mental health can make it more difficult if the student is not connected to resources and support. There are many faculty, staff and programs that stand ready to assist our students through their journey. I’m a connector, a bridge to the many services and people who care about our students. I hear the heart-felt conversations, I attend the collaborative meetings, I see the many policies being developed on behalf of our supporting our students to achieve the success we all want for them.

As I look back at my list of students, I think I spend the most time thinking about those students who I don’t ever get to speak to, those students who did not respond, those students who I hope feel the care and concern through my written words, I wish I could tell share with them

IT IS MY HONOR…..

to create a space for you

to hear your story

to affirm your struggle

to listen to you

to assist you

to connect you

to encourage you

to check in on you

to advocate for you

to serve you

Editor’s Note: Our Leadership Team was inspired when we read this entry from Ms Pacheco. Since many universities and colleges are beginning their Spring Term wind-down, we wanted tp share this reflection as way to acknowledge the importance of the work you do. We also believe Ms Pacheco’s words celebrate our field and the value of sharing our experiences, strength, and wisdom with one another. HECMA prides itself on being an association of Shared Resources and Collaborative Networking and It is OUR Honor. ~JJL