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An Austin foundation has awarded a Social Work student a $5,000 graduate school scholarship in hopes of addressing a critical shortage of mental health professionals in Texas.
The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, one of the oldest organization’s in Texas dedicated to increasing the numbers of psychiatrists, counselors and clinical social workers, named Samantha Ostendorp as one of its 2019 Ima Hogg Scholarship recipients.
“I’m really excited,” Ostendorp said, adding she is passionate about mental health.
Ostendorp earned a Bachelor of Social Work degree at UTA in May.
She will enter the Social Work Master’s program here this fall. She plans to focus her studies in the Direct Practice in Mental Health and Substance Abuse specialty.
As an undergraduate, Ostendorp worked as a peer educator in a campus bystander intervention program designed to encourage students to recognize hostile behaviors and to deescalate them. She also planned workshops on suicide prevention and hazing prevention.
“Samantha exemplifies the best of what we hope for students in the School of Social Work,” Dean Scott Ryan said in his nomination of Ostendorp for the scholarship.
She is the second UTA student in three years to earn the scholarship.
In 2017, Alan Kunz Lomelin, also was named an Ima Hogg Scholarship recipient. He graduated in May with a Master’s in Social Work.
Ostendorp began her undergraduate Social Work studies after spending her teen years volunteering with members of her church to help families forced out of their homes and traumatized by hurricanes in southern Louisiana.
“I always knew what I wanted to do was with people,” she said. “Social Work is kind of like paid volunteer work. I think it’s something I’m good at.”
In elementary, junior high and high school, she took trips, including to Costa Rica, to assist children and their families in areas impacted by natural disasters.
“It’s cool doing it as a kid,” she says. “It was just fun for me.”
Dean Ryan said Ostendorp’s “passion for mental health is clear.”
He has no doubt, he said, she “will continue to demonstrate this commitment to mental health among vulnerable communities.”
At UTA, Ostendorp and a peer formed a campus student organization dedicated to exploring how emerging Social Workers might later use their spirituality in the Social Work profession.
The Social Work and Spirituality Organization seeks to broaden Social Work students’ perspectives on world religions. When they become professionals, they can work with clients from diverse spiritual backgrounds, Ostendorp hopes.
The Hogg Foundation annually grants more than $50,000 in scholarships to Texas university students who are interested in addressing mental health needs of the state’s residents.
The foundation also grants millions of dollars to social scientists and private organizations to research mental health issues and to assist with training new psychologists, Social Workers and other mental health professionals.
According to a recent foundation study, 81 percent of Texas’ 254 counties are Health Professional Shortage Areas, a designation by the federal government that indicates a locale has limited or no access to mental health services.
“Texas’ mental health workforce challenges are very real,” the July 2016 report “The Texas Mental Health Workforce” concluded.
“The solutions are not always easy to implement, and they often require additional resources,” the report concluded. “However, the cost of ignoring the problem will be great.”
Aside from Ostendorp, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health awarded scholarships to nearly a dozen other students from universities across Texas.
For more information on the foundation, go to http://hogg.utexas.edu/