Rocio Velasquez, a master’s student in the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, has been named as a recipient of an American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation Minority Scholarship. The $5,000 scholarship was provided by the charitable organization of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the professional organization representing speech-language pathologists (SLPs), audiologists and supporters of the field of communication sciences and disorders. Only three such scholarships are given out nationwide per year.
Velasquez knows the positive impact that rehabilitation specialists can have on someone’s life. Her younger brother David has spina bifida and is able to walk thanks to his physical therapist. Velasquez wants to have this life-changing impact on others, but she is focused on ensuring everyone can communicate.
Velasquez, who received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is also a scholar in the Autism Spectrum Disorder Project at UCF, a personnel preparation grant funded through 2023 by the U.S. Department of Education to address the critical need for special educators, including speech-language pathologists, to serve the increasing need of children identified with autism spectrum disorders.
“I am currently enrolled in courses that are equipping me with the clinical competency to meet the needs of my future clients in the schools,” Velasquez says. “Project ASD provides me with an amazing opportunity to continue my studies at the graduate level in a way that maximizes my efficiency as a speech-language practitioner during my clinical practice before and after graduation.”
Velasquez volunteers with UCF NSSLHA, the student chapter for those who wish to become SLPs, UCF Aphasia Family, and with the Mexican American Council, a nonprofit that offers resources to farmworker families.
“My passion for service translates perfectly into my preparation for clinical work where I will apply my knowledge acquired to serve those with speech and language needs,” Velasquez says.
“This scholarship award recognizes the amazing work being done by Rocio now, and supports her success so that she can become an SLP and continue to make an impact by advocating for those who have communication challenges and need her help,” says Gregory L. Lof, the interim director of the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders. “We are very proud to have her in our program and are pleased that she is the second such awardee in the past few years from our School. Students like Rocio show the nationwide speech-language pathology community that UCF is a premier program for educating students.”