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GCSW Student Lorenzo Salinas Shares his Firsthand Account of Systemic Inequalities and Hopes to Empower Underrepersented Communities

Believing in the transformative power of empathy and integrity in public service, first-generation student Lorenzo Salinas hopes to empower marginalized communities to advocate for themselves.

lorenzosalinas1.jpg Salinas, a dual-degree graduate candidate at the University of Houston's Graduate School of Social Work (Master of Social Work) and the Hobby School of Public Affairs (Master of Public Policy), is making a difference the community one step at a time.

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Name: Lorenzo Salinas

Program: MSW with a focus on Political Social Work

Congratulations on all of your accomplishments, your story is truly inspiring! Tell us a little about yourself, and what led you to choose the University of Houston Graduate College of Social work?

I hail from Baytown, Texas, and my journey in social work began at Lamar University, where I earned my BSW. I was drawn to the University of Houston's Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW) because of its renowned excellence and the unique FLO on political social work. This focus aligns perfectly with my interests and aspirations, providing a platform to explore the intersection of policy and social work.

How do you believe the GCSW’s mission aligns with your personal and professional goals?

The GCSW's dedication to social, racial, economic, and political justice resonates deeply with my personal ethos and professional ambitions. Their mission provides a framework to not just understand but actively engage in creating equitable solutions to systemic issues. This alignment empowers me to pursue my goals in a community that values and promotes justice in all its forms.

Given your deep community involvement; can you share a specific moment or realization from your personal background that fueled your determination to create change? How has your upbringing shaped your present advocacy and future aspirations?

Growing up, I witnessed firsthand the impacts of systemic inequalities. A pivotal moment was realizing that my path could be different, and that I could play a role in changing the narrative for others like me. This understanding has been the bedrock of my advocacy, fueling my commitment to empower the underrepresented and drive meaningful change.

Your dedication to social work and public policy is evident. Can you tell us about some specific social issues or causes that drive your commitment to making a difference?

My commitment is deeply rooted in addressing key issues such as immigration, racial justice, social justice, and enhancing the empowerment of marginalized communities. The complexities surrounding immigration have always resonated with me, reflecting the need for compassionate yet pragmatic policies that uphold human dignity and rights. Racial justice is another cornerstone of my advocacy, as I strive to dismantle systemic barriers and promote equity. In all these areas, my goal is to enhance the voices and opportunities of marginalized communities, ensuring that equity isn't just an ideal, but a lived reality for all. These causes are interconnected, and my approach is to address them through a holistic lens that acknowledges their interdependence and the cumulative impact they have on society.

In your experience, how do social work and public policy complement each other in addressing societal challenges, especially within the context of your work in Houston?

Social work and public policy are intrinsically linked, especially in a diverse city like Houston. While social work provides a lens to understand individual and community needs, public policy offers the tools to enact systemic change. Together, they enable a holistic approach to tackling issues, ensuring that solutions are both empathetic and effective.

Switching gears to your current community involvement, tell us about your role within the City of Houston Food Insecurity Board of Directors. What are some initiatives or projects you're currently involved in to combat food insecurity, and what motivated you to take on this role?

My motivation for joining this board stems from a fundamental belief in food as a basic human right and a recognition of its critical role in overall health and well-being. By addressing food insecurity, we are not only alleviating immediate needs but also contributing to the long-term resilience and empowerment of our communities.

Share with us a bit about being selected for the Social Economy Enterprise Academy. What does this mean to you?

Being selected for the Social Economy Enterprise Academy was a great honor. This opportunity allowed me to merge academic learning with practical application, working on real-world challenges and contributing to sustainable solutions within Houston.

Along with your commitment to volunteering, you currently hold the position of Program Manager for CCPPI, what does this entail and what does it mean to you?

As the Program Manager at the Center for Civic and Public Policy Improvement (CCPPI), I spearhead initiatives in affordable housing, healthcare, education, and criminal justice. This involves strategic planning, overseeing project development, and engaging in advocacy and community outreach. My responsibilities are diverse, from coordinating programs to ensuring their alignment with CCPPI's mission and goals. On a personal level, this position resonates deeply with my commitment to social change, particularly in supporting marginalized communities. My background in public policy and social work is instrumental in navigating these complex areas. Each initiative, whether it’s improving housing accessibility, enhancing healthcare, advocating for educational reforms, or addressing issues in the criminal justice system, is an opportunity to make a tangible impact for all Houstonians.

Looking ahead, what are your long-term goals in social work and public policy? Do you have a vision for the impact you hope to make?

In the long term, my goal is to embody and promote integrity in all facets of public service. I aspire to empower marginalized communities to advocate for themselves, believing deeply in the transformative power of empathy and integrity in public service

To end, being a first-generation student and actively involved in social and policy issues, what advice do you have for other first-generation students who may be aspiring to pursue higher education and make an impact in their communities?

To my fellow first-generation students, I say: embrace your unique journey. Your perspective is invaluable, and your experiences can drive meaningful change. Pursue education with determination, seek mentorship, and don't shy away from opportunities that challenge you. Remember, your success is a beacon of hope and a testament to the power of resilience and hard work.