Brittney Bradley and Jesse “Patrick” Garcia look forward to drawing from their schooling in psychology to make a positive difference for others with their Saturday graduation from the University of Houston-Victoria.

“The field of psychology has always interested me,” said Bradley, who plans to become a school psychologist to help students with disabilities. “I look forward to helping families and parents gain more understanding and insight as to why their children do the things they do.”

Likewise, Garcia, a father of four who spent 15 years in the U.S. Army with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, wants to help guide children and teens down the right path. As a mental health counselor in private practice, he wants veterans and others to know that they are not alone.

“I’m interested in becoming a counselor because I have a passion for helping others,” he said. “No matter what the problem or socioeconomic status of a person, I feel that my life’s experiences help me to relate to a variety of individuals.”

The two students were recently recognized for their academic excellence by UHV’s College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences for the spring semester. Bradley, of Katy, was chosen as the college’s Outstanding Graduate Student, and Garcia, of Victoria, was named the Outstanding Undergraduate Student.

“Brittney and Jesse are excellent examples of UHV’s commitment to its students and the quality of students who pursue degrees here,” said Kyoko Amano, dean of the college. “They have displayed an admirable commitment to improving not just themselves, but also the lives of others through their work in the classroom. I wish them the best in their next steps in life.”

Each semester, professors from UHV’s four colleges select outstanding graduates to be honored during commencement. UHV held its spring graduation ceremonies Saturday at Faith Family Church, 2002 E. Mockingbird Lane.

Bradley received a specialist in school psychology degree with plans to become a licensed specialist in school psychology. This semester, she worked as a specialist in school psychology intern at the Alief Independent School District.

“Coupling my interest in psychology with education, which I really value, has just been the best, along with being able to put that knowledge into practice through this internship,” she said.

After graduating and passing the licensure exam, she will continue working in the Alief school district full time as licensed specialist in school psychology whose primary focus is identifying special education needs in children and determining their eligibility for special education services. In this role, she will work with children with disabilities, their parents and teachers, as well as school administrators.

She also plans to get national certification through the National Association of School Psychologists, which will be easier since UHV became accredited by that organization in 2021, she said.

“I’m really grateful to UHV because our professors worked really hard for us to get that national accreditation,” she said, noting that national accreditation opens doors for someone to work anywhere in the country. “It will be a lot easier for me to become nationally certified because of the work that they put into getting our program accredited.”

Bradley, who worked for six years in finance, started the graduate program at UHV in fall 2018 right after getting married and switching career paths. She took one semester off due to pregnancy and gave birth to her daughter in 2020. Thankfully, she had full support from her husband, she said.

“I was coming into a whole new world,” she said. “I was working while going through school, and then having a baby. It’s just been an epic journey.”

Garcia also has had to balance parenting with school, and he overcame a number of life obstacles as a veteran. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology.

“It’s been pretty tough, but it’s also been kind of fun,” he said. “I’ve learned how to balance things out, how to be a father and how to be present. My number one goal is to be the father I didn’t have growing up.”

He volunteers his time to Toys for Tots, helping low incomed neighborhoods beautify itself, serves meals for the homeless and has built a good rapport within the community.

“I learned a lot in these last two years, not just about psychology, but about myself,” he said.

Garcia credits the encouragement of his wife and UHV’s faculty and staff for their commitment to seeing students succeed.

“That is not just in an educational sense but personally,” he said. “I think that’s what’s been really nice about UHV.”

He plans to continue his education at UHV to work toward a Master of Science in clinical mental health counseling, and continue as a positive role model for his children.

“Hopefully, down the road, if or when life’s curveballs are thrown at my children in any type of way, not just educationally, hopefully they look back and see their Dad as a positive example to push through those obstacles and make it over the top of the mountain.”

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