"Stand Up and Be Counted" - CHS Alum Challenges Next Generation of Social Activists
Earlier this week, CHS alum Salvador Balcorta (BSW, 80’) delivered a rousing lecture to CHS faculty and students focused on the continued need for social activism on the border. Balcorta, CEO of Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe, visited the campus during Homecoming Week activities and was introduced at the lecture by Dr. Candyce Berger, interim chair of the Department of Social Work, as the College of Health Sciences’ 2019 Gold Nugget award recipient. The Gold Nugget is one of UTEP’s most prestigious awards, and is reserved for UTEP alums who have made significant contributions to society.
Balcorta, well known across the country for his passionate dedication to social justice for the Hispanic/Latino community, opened his lecture with a touching poem he wrote for his mother. He recalled how women such as she – poor single mothers from El Paso’s Segundo Barrio looking for a better life – began the movement over 50 years ago that eventually led to the establishment of La Fe Clinic. Balcorta embraced social activism as a young teen himself and the rest, as they say, is history. Under his direction as CEO, La Fe grew from a singular clinic in South El Paso (originally the Father Rahm Clinic) to a Federally Qualified Health Center that today includes 10 clinics, a child and adolescent wellness center, a behavioral health center, and a charter school serving elementary aged children.
“We were youth, bringing up the problems we faced in our community, and we were the ones proposing the solutions,” he said. “We were 14, 15, 16 years old. A lot of us were not educated. Most importantly, a lot of us were youth of color.”
Throughout his lecture, Balcorta brought up issues that continue to plague the Hispanic/Latino community – including incarceration, violence, drug abuse and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS – which he links to poverty and a system that fails people of color. He challenged students in the audience to consider volunteering at La Fe to see the challenges first hand, and in the long term, to consider working in fields such as social work, calling social workers “people healers.”
“It’s what our people need and want,” he said. “What I want you all to take away from this lecture is to stand up and be counted. We should not cover our eyes, our ears, our mouth, because silence is compliance.”
For more information about Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe, visit: https://lafe-ep.org/