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NMSU professor to participate in outreach efforts for hurricane victims

The head of the New Mexico State University Counseling and Educational Psychology Department will join other psychologists in providing outreach to victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans when he goes to the American Psychology Association convention in August.

Luis Vazquez attends the APA convention every year, but this year he said it's going to be a little different.
"The convention is held in a different city every year, and it was set to be in New Orleans this year. Of course no one knew there was going to be such a devastating hurricane last year. APA decided to honor its commitment to have the convention in New Orleans, not only because it is such a great city with great people, but also to support the economy in its challenge of an on-going recovery from the hurricane, along with offering some psychological services to the many still in need in the community," Vazquez said.

As a member of the Divisions of Counseling Psychology and the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues, Vazquez will be part of a number of volunteer efforts.

"Train the Trainer" workshops will be held for New Orleans educators, mental health professionals and parents to help develop cultural sensitivity, Vazquez said. The workshops will focus on topics such as post-traumatic stress disorder, resilience and secondary trauma.

"It's a domino effect. By training the trainers, they will train others and so on, where everybody helps everybody," Vazquez said.

The society also is creating a "Counselor to Counselor" program in which counselors will have the opportunity to donate resources such as spare textbooks to counselors in storm affected areas.

Vazquez is not sure what he will be doing to help the hurricane victims, but he said his ability to speak Spanish fluently will be needed.

"There are several areas that need help and we only have three to four days, which is a limited time. I will probably take part in some training and use my bilingual skills to do translating," Vazquez said.

Vazquez was awarded a Presidential Citation at last year's APA convention for his contributions in the field, including his work with the state of New Mexico in passing laws and developing programs for New Mexico psychologists to receive prescriptive authority.
As a bilingual, first-generation college graduate, his "pay it forward" philosophy has allowed him to pursue many research and other opportunities aimed at advancing the success of Hispanic students.

Vazquez serves as a senior faculty senator for NMSU's Faculty Senate; as president of the university's Hispanic Caucus; as a faculty adviser to UNITY, a multicultural graduate student group; and as a faculty mentor for the NMSU Teaching Academy.