The National Association of Social Workers Foundation has awarded MSW student Teresa Rivera Capcha the Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship recognizes master’s degree candidates in social work who have demonstrated a commitment to working with, or who have a special affinity with, American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic/Latino populations.
Rivera Capcha is a Peruvian immigrant and a first-generation college and graduate student interested in strengthening access to mental health services to underserved and marginalized communities, especially for survivors of domestic violence.
“Part of my goal is to help immigrants and refugees with access to needed services and with issues of acculturation,” said Rivera Capcha, who is enrolled in the School’s 3-year Triangle Program and UNC-PrimeCare.
She honed some of the skills she will need to do just that over the past two years through her field placement with the UNC Refugee Mental Health and Wellness Initiative, a federally funded, state contract program that provides mental health screening, assessment, and treatment services for refugees resettled in the state’s Triangle area. In her role, Rivera Capcha worked closely with refugee clients and offered a linguistic connection and cultural perspective that other interpreters are not always able to provide, praised clinical assistant professor Josh Hinson, Rivera Capcha’s field instructor.
Hinson said he was also impressed with Rivera Capcha’s leadership, including her work to help create a group therapy curriculum and group sessions for Burmese and Karen women experiencing domestic violence. Such mental health resources are often lacking for non-English speakers, he said.
“Through her activism in the community and her work with the UNC Refugee Mental Health and Wellness Initiative, Teresa has demonstrated a deep commitment to the social work values of service, social justice, and the dignity and worth of all people,” Hinson said.
Over the last few years, Rivera Capcha has also worked closely with the Domestic Violence Task Force Latinx Subcommittee in Orange County, helping to bridge the gaps in services and resources for the Latinx community.
Her commitment to victims and survivors of domestic violence is very personal. As a child, Rivera Capcha occasionally witnessed her father’s abuse of her mother. She credits social workers for helping her family to heal.
“Seeing the changes in my mother and siblings has been so important,” she said. “And because of social workers and therapists, we were able to stop that intergenerational violence.”
Although humbled to receive the Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial Scholarship, Rivera Capcha is also thankful for the acknowledgement of her work. Moreover, she is grateful for the financial support, especially during the pandemic. She had hoped to work over the summer to save for tuition but was unable to find a job.
“There have been times when I considered quitting because I wasn’t sure I would have the financial support to continue with school,” she said. “This scholarship is going to relieve some of that burden.”