Latina Researchers Network
Social Justice Essay Challenge
WINNING ESSAY BY TANYA ERAZO
We asked the Latina Researchers Network, “How are you using scholarship or evaluation to promote social justice for Latinx, their families or community?” We are excited to feature the winning essays. They remind us that no matter the circumstances, the challenges or obstacles, we all have an important story. Stories that will open the doors to the next generation of investigators – stories that transcend geographic location and academic disciplines.
*Essays were edited for content and brevity.
Tanya Erazo, MA, CASAC-T, Ph.D. Student in Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Tanya Erazo shares a personal account of those who helped her become a first-generation doctoral student poised to be a psychologist
- BA, Law and Society, University of California at Santa Barbara
- MA, General Psychology, Concentration in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling
- MA, Forensic Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY
“Me llamo Orlando y soy alcohólico [My name is Orlando and I’m an alcoholic].” Despite abstaining from alcohol for 39 years, my father still introduces himself this way at the many Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and conventions where he speaks. That repeated phrase has taught me this: when it comes to your community, you don’t leave it once you “make it.” As a first-generation doctoral student poised to be a psychologist, many people helped me get to where I am.
It’s my duty to give back. I must use my seat of educational privilege to fight for the marginalized –mi gente.
My research, scholastic, clinical, and volunteer experiences are testimonies to the lesson my father taught. From my first research position working with predominantly Latinx and Black, low-income, substance-using, corrections-involved families suffering from trauma to my current research on the mental health effects of microaggressions on people of color, LGBTQ people, and women – and the many projects in between, I have curated my research projects to better understand and advance the behavioral health of communities of Color and other disadvantaged groups.
My clinical endeavors are no different. By working in the field and also witnessing my dad’s struggles, I saw a scarcity of Spanish-speaking and culturally informed providers for Latinx clients. I changed this the easiest way I could – I became a Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor in training (CASAC-T). As I pursued my training, I found myriad concerns for marginalized individuals who seek mental health treatment. For example, I worked at a free, home-based crisis intervention program for children and adolescents at risk of psychiatric hospitalization, most of whom were Brown, Black, and from the projects. I was devastated by the lack of understanding psychologists and psychiatrists had for my clients and their backgrounds.
It encouraged me to work as their advocate in the world of mental health, which often over- and misdiagnosed them.
Currently, I’m en route to becoming a clinical psychologist, serving as many Latinx clients as I can along the way. I have gone to maximum security prisons and neighborhoods some people don’t feel comfortable in as a means of offering access to the underserved (e.g., Rikers Island, Brownsville Brooklyn, and Hunts Point in the Bronx). My academic interests in the health and safety of people of Color have cultivated my cultural competence. Meanwhile, my life experiences compel me to keep selecting relevant research projects and clinical sites that serve Latinx communities and other non-dominant groups. When I become a psychologist I’ll be positioned to serve mi gente by working in clinics that welcome them and researching ways to keep them safe.
Like my father taught me: when it comes to your community, you don’t leave it once you “make it.”
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE WINNERS!
CHECK THE OTHERS HERE!
About us: The Latina Researchers Network was founded to ensure the successful achievement of Latina researchers and under-represented scholars. The Network is committed to bringing awareness to the challenges and opportunities faced by under-represented investigators, to showcasing excellence in scholarship, and to building a supportive community of diverse scholars and allies to increase the research pipeline. Stay connected! Get latest news and updates via our List-serve, Tweet Chats, Facebook Page and LinkedIn Group. For more information, email us at info@LatinaResearchers.com