April 15, 2019 | Katherine Adams
The Latino Social Workers of Greater Houston Network presented University of Houston-Clear Lake Assistant Professor of Social Work Roberta Leal with the organization’s annual Social Worker of the Year award at an event held in Houston on March 28. Leal’s expertise in issues impacting the Latino community in Houston made her a highly valued member of the LSWGH network, where she became a founding board member in 2014 and has remained an active and involved mentor to her colleagues in the profession.
“Every year, our organization sends out requests for members to nominate a social worker of the year and aim to have a selection by March, for Social Work Month,” said Veronica Meza-Hernandez, a licensed clinical social worker and president of the Network’s executive board. “Members in the network begin to nominate someone who has stood out and made a difference. Then, the executive board reviews the nominations and determines who received most votes.”
She added that the organization consists of about 250 plus social work professionals.
This year the voting process was a bit different, Meza-Hernandez explained. “Once Dr. Leal was nominated nearly every member that voted nominated her,” she said. “We didn’t really need to complete the counting process, because she clearly had all the votes. It wasn’t even a close call.”
Leal is always active and available to help, Meza-Hernandez said.
“She is always helping the network with her participation, guidance and behind the scenes, such as connecting the network with resources, information or other professional partners. It’s so valuable to have someone so invested in helping the Latino community and the social workers who are serving that community,” she said.
Other founding members of the organization spoke about their experiences working with Leal.
“They talked about her impact in the community and the impact she has made on their lives as a social worker, educator, mentor and friend,” Meza-Hernandez said. “She was very effective as a presenter at the LSWGH First Annual Conference. The attendees loved the way she combined humor and intelligence as well as empowerment and a call to action, all at the same time. Many people met her for the first time at the conference and she received such positive feedback.”
“It was very exciting to be part of that conference,” said Leal. “It generated a lot of interest around organizing ourselves so we have the tools and the resources to practice within our community. It’s wonderful to receive this recognition from my peers.”
She added, “As a social work professional, my role has been varied throughout the years and includes hosting information sessions about immigration policy, providing mentorship to my peers in social work, and offering research/evaluation services locally for community-based school districts and nonprofit agencies.”
For more information about UH-Clear Lake’s Social Work program, visit www.uhcl.edu/human-sciences-humanities/departments/clinical-health-applied-sciences/social-work.