Alumna uses university experiences to help children, families

Liz Pearson grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota and graduated from St. Edward’s University in 2012 with an undergraduate degree in Criminology. She currently works with the Travis County Integral Care Unit focusing on support for children and their families.

What brought you to St. Edward’s?

I was looking at schools in Austin, because I have family who live right outside of Austin and I wanted a change. I wanted to move somewhere new and experience a new school, and then I came to St. Edward’s. … My mom and I walked on the campus and fell in love with it. We liked the values, we liked the majors and the buildings. It was just really wonderful, and so then I decided to come to St. Edward’s.

What made St. Edward’s different from other schools you were looking at?

One thing I really liked about at St. Edward’s was the diversity that they have there. There is just all these different cultures and things that I have learned about, and I got to study more about it in my major and then in the extracurricular activities I participated in. I was part of the Multicultural Leadership Board (MLB) in Student Life and that is where I really got to meet a lot of different people from a lot of different walks of life. I participated in the St. Edward’s Club Swimming team, and that was a place where I felt like I really belonged with a group of people and everyone was very welcoming and I got to learn a new skill.

What do you miss the most from St. Edward’s?

I really like the awareness of other cultures, because growing up we did not have that. I grew up in an all Caucasian school, and (at St. Edward’s) I got to learn about many different people from many different walks of life.

What impact did your degree and professors have on your plans after St. Edward’s?

One of my professors, he was a retired judge, he taught me a lot about the criminal justice system. I did not know that much going into the major and then I learned so much about the different areas that I could study and the different types of people I could work with – (Professor) Horton, he was the professor, and he had a huge impact on me. It was my first class in the criminology department, and then what I learned was when I was actually able to participate in field experience. 

I did an internship for Child Protective Services in Minnesota, but I was involved in the internship class and was able to document every day, what I was doing and what impact I was making. It really paved the way for me to decide that I wanted to work with children and that I wanted to work more in social work. 

What jobs have you had since graduation, and what has led you to the position you have now?

I first started out working in a couple of part time jobs working with kids and families. Then my first full time job out of St. Edward’s was a youth care worker at a children’s shelter. There I worked with a lot of different kids with a lot of different backgrounds and learned how to manage behaviors and work with other staffs.

So then my current job is I work with children and families through Austin Travis County Integral Care. I am a case manager for kids and our families in the program called Y.E.S. (Youth Empowerment Services) waiver, which is services funded through the state. We work with ten to twelve different cases, and it is basically for kids with mental health issues that need extra services through the state and through the county. So some of the services that are for our kids are alternative forms of therapy, such as: equine therapy, art therapy, and music therapy. We also do family supports, we do some community living skills and support and I think that’s it.

Why social work?

What led me into social work was that I really wanted to help people. I learned that about myself at St. Edward’s. I wanted to be a part of something and feel like I am making a difference because I felt that there were a lot of people there whose goal it was to make a change, like the slogan says, and make a difference in someone’s life.

I work a lot with mental health and educating (patients) on what mental health is, because I think there is a lot of stigma associated with mental health, and I wish that more people could be educated on what it really means. 

So what does it really mean?

Working with them to build the skills and make every day the best and live their life to the fullest, because I think a lot of the times people view children and adults with mental health illnesses as weak and that is not what it is at all. It is building the strength so that they can develop skills to work through it.