Question of the Month—Answer
Why does Vanessa Sanchez-Mexicano, Counseling Dept. Intern, enjoy working with DLSNC students?
a) They are diverse
b) Many will be first-generation college students
c) They have a similar background to her
d) All of the above
The DLSNC Counseling Department is excited to have Vanessa Sanchez-Mexicano join us this year! She comes to us as a 2nd year intern from the Portland State University´s Graduate School of Social Work. Counselor Pam Wood recently had an opportunity to sit down and talk with her a bit about herself.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, and what inspired you to become a social worker?
I grew up in Hood River and moved to Portland to pursue undergraduate studies in criminal justice at PSU. I have worked for the past five years with youth and families, including at UNICA, a Spanish-speaking domestic violence hotline, and I am currently working at a group home for immigrant youth. In my work with youth and families, I have seen a real need for social workers and clinicians who could offer bicultural and bilingual mental health support.
What drew you to DLSNC? What were you looking for in a placement?
I was drawn to DLSNC because of its diverse student body, and its values—I like how invested DLSNC is in connecting with its students.
What excites you about working with DLSNC students?
Being a first-generation college student and person of color, I enjoy working with students with a similar background. Of course, the pandemic brings its extra challenges—making it even more valuable to me that DLSNC works so hard to connect with our students.
What is something from your experience that has uniquely prepared you for this role?
My experience as a first-generation college student provided unique challenges and motivations for me. Coming from an immigrant household is a unique experience that the school system doesn´t always know how to support. I enjoy working at a place that is looking at how we can fill in those gaps and let that unique experience inform the supports we offer. I was motivated to attend college and be able to go farther than others in my family and community have historically been able to. I want students to be able to draw from my experience as they pursue their own path.
In many communities, there is a stigma around mental health and counseling. What have you observed in this regard?
In many of our Latino communities, mental health is stigmatized deeply. Knowing how much marginalized communities experience trauma, I have seen that resiliency isn´t always enough. Access to mental health supports is often crucial in getting past trauma and moving into resilience. It is so valuable to access mental health supports regularly, and having the option of a clinician who understands your background can do a lot for overcoming this stigma. I hope to be part of helping my community move into the resilience that can come from having access to that kind of mental health support.
What do you plan to do after you receive your social work degree?
Short-term, I want to work with youth and families in a clinical role—either in a community setting or a high school. Long term, I would like to open up a center with other BIPOC therapists and clinicians to primarily serve BIPOC community members, offering them access to a wide array of therapists who can meet their needs in a culturally-competent setting.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Outside of quarantine restrictions, I love to dabble in powerlifting! For the past 5-6 years, I have found powerlifting a great place to get a lot of my stress out, and it is a very cool family-like experience getting to work out with people who are really strong. I also spend a lot of time helping with powerlifting meets. The powerlifting community is very fun and supportive. (Vanessa can deadlift 300 lbs., bench press 145 lbs., and squat 230 lbs.!) I also love to cook, and my goal is to eventually get to my mom's level of cooking. My current favorite dish—posole.