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The University of Houston at Sugar Land 16th Annual Scholarship Banquet: Student Matthew Gaines

The University of Houston at Sugar Land celebrated students and their benefactors at the 16th Annual Scholarship Banquet.  The event took place at the Safari Texas Ranch. Stephen Morgan, reporter for Fox 26 news, served as emcee.

Below are the remarks of Matthew Gaines, who received a scholarship from the Fred and Mabel R. Parks Foundation. He explains the importance of supporters on the academic journey, and how this scholarship will impact him.

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 Hello, my name is Matt Gaines. I am a student here at the University of Houston at Sugar Land and I am pursuing my master’s through the UH Graduate College of Social Work.  I am also a recipient of the Fred & Mabel Parks Foundation Scholarship.

I am here today on behalf of the student scholarship recipients to say “thank you” to the donors for their generous contributions to the students of UH Sugar Land. Second, I wanted to share my story and how this scholarship will help me.

I will never forget the first time I wanted to be a social worker. I had just finished my first tour in Iraq and was experiencing the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I became considerably depressed, was living a pretty volatile self-existence and needed help. It was a social worker who provided me the counseling and resources needed to help me make it through such a difficult time. I wanted to help soldiers who were returning to civilian life, just as I helped them on the battlefield.

I had entered into the service in 2004 in order to pay for my college education through the GI Bill, and I also wanted to serve my country. Neither of my parents attended college and my dad never completed high school because he had step up as the head of house after his father passed away at a young age. My parents sacrificed so much for me and my siblings growing up, so it was important that I received my college degree.

I served in the United States Army for over five and a half years with two to Iraq as a medic while obtaining the rank of sergeant. I walked away from my time in the Army with no physical injuries, but the mental scars will always remain. I lost friends and saw horrific things that no one should ever see. I know the feeling of returning home and realizing that your world will be different. The feelings of being told you have to go back over there for your second time when just finished your first and you are supposed to be done. The feeling of losing your friend and getting right back out there the next day on patrol. I know those horrible feelings, but I also know that help is out there and I want to be someone who provides that help.

I currently work at the Harris County Ombudsman Program where I advocate for elderly and disabled residents living in assisted living and nursing homes. I ensure that residents have a voice and are being treated with dignity and respect at the facility. After the completion of my masters program, I wish to obtain my license as a clinical social worker and work at the VA providing mental health counseling to veterans.

As a single dad who works full time, receiving this scholarship in my final year of grad school will go a long way to helping me realize my dream of serving those who have served. Thanks again to all of the donors for helping us achieve our dreams and thank you everyone for coming out tonight.