The Association of Counseling Center Training Agencies awarded the Helen Roehlke Award to Texas Woman’s University Counseling and Psychological Services interim director Carmen Cruz.
Carmen Cruz is the child of Cuban immigrants, and she grew up in Miami, Florida. She moved to Texas in 1997 in order to be at TWU, and this summer she will be celebrating the 26th anniversary of her start at TWU. She wanted to do something that had intrinsic value, and she found that through TWU and all its various programs, she said.
“What I loved about my job at TWU and what I have loved about it over the years is that not only do I get to still be a psychologist, but I got to work with graduate students and socialize them into the profession,” Cruz said. “We have graduate students that are at TWU in the masters and doctorate programs, and then we also had a national internship program where I got to be a part of people’s dream come true. It’s super cool to be an educator, trainer and a psychologist while also doing outreach and talking to TWU students.”
The Helen Roehlke Award is awarded to people who show outstanding service and exemplify the values of ACCTA. Only one person is awarded each year and the final decision lands on the ACCTA Board of Directors. Cruz said the award means more than words can describe as Cruz was ending her membership in ACCTA due to the TWU doctoral internship program shutting down.
“One of the other awards we give is called the diversity mentorship scholarship and I got nominated, applied and won back in 2000,” Cruz said. “The training director at the time nominated me so I got to go to ACCTA for the first time very early in my career. It was like I started by winning and ending by winning.”
Cruz became part of the Association of Counseling Center Training Agencies, which is a national organization for training directors of doctoral-level internship programs in university counseling centers. TWU had an American Psychological Association accredited doctoral internship program for 35 years, and through this program, Cruz found her way into ACCTA. Cruz says that she knew she wanted to be part of the organization and that she loved all the things ACCTA represented.
“As part of my work at ACCTA, I felt so much intrinsic value and wanted to be part of this organization,” Cruz said. “People with the same mission to help all these people who are starting to become psychologists and help them get acclaimed into being psychologists and things like that. We gather once a year for conferences, and over the first few years I led their diversity committee and I got really involved, improved it, changed, then I was nominated and voted onto the board and I served a few years on the board, then I was nominated for president.”
Cruz explained that she was the first Latinx ACCTA president which added so much more significance to her time and work at ACCTA. She also expressed that as a Latinx first-generation student, she would have never imagined all the success and support she has had throughout her time in ACCTA.
Cruz said that this award to her was the best way to end her time at ACCTA and that the award was the ultimate gesture of appreciation and recognition.
“It was a very purposeful and meaningful end to my career as a director of training,” Cruz said. “It is a recognition of being valued for what I bring and being seen and welcomed. Purpose and meaning are the two words that keep coming up. [ACCTA] brought me role modeling, so many things, things I never imagined I could do in my life.”
Karyme Flores can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.