January 8, 2021
Las Vegas, N.M. – Two social work students from New Mexico Highlands University received scholarships from the Las Vegas chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW).
Michelle Maestas and Elsa Aguirre both received $1,000 scholarships.
“The scholarship committee was very impressed with how these young women have achieved so much and are incredibly motivated,” said Phyllis Ludi, the scholarship committee chair of the Las Vegas AAUW chapter. “These nontraditional students have demonstrated a willingness to work hard to improve their lives and the lives of their children.”
Michelle Maestas, 27, is a Master of Social Work student from Las Vegas, New Mexico, who earned her BSW from Highlands in December 2020 with a 3.8 GPA. Maestas works in a social work practicum at the Las Vegas El Centro Family Health Clinic in the Behavioral Health Department. She has a 7-year-old daughter, Raven.
“I have chosen this social work career path due to the shortage of services and resources for the lower class and ethnic minorities,” Maestas said. “My goal is to obtain my license as well as my master’s degree to open my own therapy office. I have always been interested in art therapy ever since I was a child. I will pursue art therapy because it is an effective therapeutic technique that can be used for any age group or race.”
Maestas said her social work education at Highlands was life changing because it empowered her to enter a career where she could address serious societal issues like substance abuse.
“The social work faculty at Highlands is excellent. They taught me the importance of cultural competence in the social work profession and inspired me to become an advocate for my community,” Maestas said.
Elsa Aguirre, 33, will graduate from Highlands in May 2021 with a Bachelor of Social Work degree. She has maintained a 3.9 GPA while working full time as a housekeeper and raising two daughters, Bridget and Yaiza. Aguirre, who was born in Juarez, Mexico, has lived in the United States since she was 10.
“After graduating, I plan to continue with my studies and become a licensed family therapist and counselor in the State of New Mexico practicing skilled, competent, empathetic care with every client that will come to my office,” Aguirre said. “I see myself specializing with families who have seen abuse and neglect or have experienced trauma. I want to help these families improve their environments, themselves and their situations in life.”
Aguirre said Highlands social work professor Andrea Abeyta at the university’s Rio Rancho Center became a valued mentor and inspired her to contribute to society.
“Andrea Abeyta encouraged me to break immigrant stereotypes and be an inspiration for other immigrant mothers completing their education,” Aguirre said.
The Las Vegas AAUW branch funds its scholarships to Highlands students through the organization’s annual used book sales.
“As soon as it’s safe, the AAUW used book sales will return,” Ludi said.