Two NYU Silver Students Awarded Latino Social Work Task Force Scholarships

Melissa Villodas
Yurilka Hernandez

Melissa Villodas, MSW ’15, and Yurilka Hernandez, MSW ’15, have been awarded scholarships from the Latino Social Work Task Force Scholarship Program. Now in its sixth year, the program awarded 12 students from the six accredited social work programs in New York City.

The Latino Social Work Task Force (LSWTF), in collaboration with the NYC Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and the Puerto Rican Family Institute, developed the annual scholarship to increase the number of New York City-based Latino social workers, whose skill sets are needed to meet the linguistic and culturally sensitive service demands of the Latino community. The program awards scholarships of up to $5,000 to Latino master’s students who, through past work and volunteer experience, demonstrate a commitment to work with Latino populations and communities and a desire to continue working with Latino populations after graduation. Applicants to the scholarship program must have an overall undergraduate/graduate GPA of 3.0 or better and be bilingual and bicultural in Spanish.

As of 2014, the LSWTF has provided more than $446,000 in scholarship funding for 74 Latino social work graduate students.

Melissa Villodas, a two-year MSW student, was happily surprised to be named a scholarship recipient. "Receiving this made me feel like someone heard me and understood me," she said. "It also offered much needed financial assistance, but when you consider all the stories submitted to scholarship committees, to know that someone could empathize with your situation and lend a helping hand was encouraging." The scholarship will allow Villodas to complete her MSW degree, which she wants to use to help underserved populations, including immigrants. She explained, "My hope is to open a nonprofit within the next five years modeling a combination of therapeutic and community organizing models to reach my community in the Bronx."

For Yurilka Hernandez, an incoming advanced standing MSW student, the LSWTF award is a family milestone: "I was the first to graduate from high school and to go on to college from both of my parents’ sides. Going to graduate school and completing my master’s degree is my ultimate goal. With this scholarship, I am confident that I will be able to make a positive change in the lives of persons in the Latino community." Hernandez plans to focus her post-graduate work on the Dominican community to raise awareness and start family conversations about HIV. "I have found out from working with the HIV/AIDS community that Dominicans are still naïve about the topic of HIV: its transmission, how to take care of their body, and their non-infected partners. The way we communicate as a family doesn’t allow us to be more conscious about HIV/AIDS infection and transmission."

Learn more about the LSWTF, including scholarship application deadlines.