Miguel Garcia is a non-traditional student at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD). Prior to starting at UHD, Miguel worked in the oil and gas field as a heat treater. While he did not want a career in oil and gas, the job enabled him to provide financial support for his family. Miguel has always valued helping others, so even while working long hours, he volunteered with local organizations, like the Brighter Bites program, and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) National Education Service Centers. Miguel’s work as a heat treater led to an interest in mental health services. Heat treaters travel across the United States, typically for weeks or months at a time. During these times, workers become home sick and exhibit signs of depression. Miguel saw firsthand the stigma concerning mental health awareness. This stigma dissuaded many of his colleagues from seeking mental health support services. Miguel is learning more about such issues through his degree in Psychology and by volunteering at community organizations that support mental health issues. Miguel plans to graduate from UHD, attend graduate school and counsel people, especially those from marginalized communities, as a therapist.
Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, I remember the impact of helping others. On several occasions, I accompanied my grandmother when she delivered food and clothes to needy people. It was from this experience that I developed an interest in serving others. Shortly thereafter, I organized my first independent volunteer activity—mowing lawns for elderly neighbors. Fast forward almost 30 years later, and I continue to value service to others. While working 55+ hours a week in oil and gas to support my family, I prioritized my commitment to help the community. In recent years I have volunteered at public schools, supported food drives, helped with neighborhood clean ups, assisted families with hurricane disaster relief, and handed out meals to homeless populations. Helping others, a value instilled in me by my grandmother, continues to impact my commitment to service. As a student at UHD, I am working with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion to learn about helping people to understand and focus on mental health. I want to encourage people, especially from marginalized communities, to seek out mental health support services. I am currently a volunteer at the Montrose Counseling Center and a Legacy Community Health Clinic.