In continuing a long-held tradition, the Steve Hicks School of Social Work announced Desto Huerta and Shalom Hernandez as its annual BSW and MSSW commencement student speakers.

Desto is actively involved in student organizing, community outreach, and community advocacy. They have special interest in reproductive rights and the Texas immigration system.

Following graduation, they plan to continue practice in the continued collective efforts to promote and facilitate change in the justice system using social determinants and evidence-based responses to behavior, especially for youth.

“Attending the Steve Hicks School has given me the tools to continue my future social work career, and reminds me everyday why I chose this path,” Desto said. “My time at SHS includes years I will cherish forever, and share proudly. Expressing my utmost appreciation to everyone that will be attending means I can reflect with my peers on a new journey of our lives.”

Shalom is a first-generation college graduate who is passionate about policy work and has served the greater SHS community as a student, including leadership in the Latinx Students and Scholars Network.

Following graduation, she plans to become a licensed master social worker (LMSW) and be involved in policy to create tangible change that will help marginalized communities transition out of poverty.

“Over these past two years at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, I’ve had the opportunity to develop and grow as a person and social worker,” Shalom said. “SHS has been the place to expand my knowledge and community, and to speak up through advocacy against actions of unjust systems that hinder the growth of marginalized communities. As a Mexican-American, disabled, and first-generation student, I am proud and honored to be this year’s MSSW Commencement Speaker.”

As part of the selection process, students were encouraged to self-nominate or submit an application for someone else with their consent on an online portal by Friday, March 15. Applicants had to be in good standing with the university. Submissions were evaluated by a committee that included program advisors, program deans, Social Work Council leadership, and faculty.