Former social work student opens center for underserved community

October 19, 2021 – The College for Health, Community and Policy (HCaP) at the University of Texas at San Antonio aims to improve the well-being of communities by serving the underserved, and faculty try to instill this mission in every student who walks through the door.

When Leti Cavazos ’12 entered the Master of Social Work Program at UTSA, she had already influenced change in San Antonio – but her training and experiences afterward would truly live up to the mission of HCaP.

After many years creating programs for shelters, non-profit institutions and recovery centers, Cavazos made the bold decision – especially during the pandemic – to open a business to serve those who may have been the hardest hit by the pandemic.

“The pandemic was my wake-up call, ‘what am I doing with my life?'” Cavazos said. “I have built programs throughout my career. And so I thought, why can’t I build something for myself? »

Cavazos founded The Canneta Center for Healing and Empowerment, which opened in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in April 2021. It provides comprehensive therapy counseling for teens, individuals, and couples. In addition to counselling, the highly qualified staff offers co-parenting sessions, psychoeducational groups and premarital classes.

Prior to opening the center, Cavazos had worked at a variety of nonprofits and shelters that helped shape her ideas for how to effectively run a program to help the community’s most vulnerable citizens. .

Ribbon cutting Leti CavazosUpon moving from San Antonio to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, she began working at the city’s largest domestic violence center.

“It was an amazing experience,” Cavazos said. “In San Antonio, we have the participants there for about six months to try to stabilize them. In this refuge, we only had 45 days.

Using his foundation as a program builder, Cavazos later helped build the foundation for the first men’s domestic violence shelter in Texas. She then created other programs for other organizations, including a long-term residential home for women and children in crisis.

“I was able to design the program to ensure that we were doing our best to help them not only overcome the trauma, but also build their ability to find employment and learn the skills needed to increase their earning potential. .”

When she was ready to branch out and start her own program, she reflected on her experiences in the field as well as her experiences with her employers. She knew she wanted to build something different for customers and employees. The Canneta Center has a dual mission for Cavazos: to serve DFW’s largely underserved Hispanic population and to empower employees to dictate their own worth by instituting a sliding pay scale.

Leti CavazosComing from San Antonio, Cavazos was very surprised to see the lack of services in the DFW area for the Hispanic population.

“The more I went out to talk to people, the more I realized it was a missing niche,” she said. Because the need was so strong, services in the region began to send clients to the Canneta Center. Not even a year after its founding, the Center has a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a local foundation that will financially support members of the Hispanic population in need of counseling.

“It’s a huge step because there’s already a stigma with mental health within the community,” Cavazos said. “And now that the financial barrier is removed, we hope to break down more walls to help people get services and not be ashamed of them.”

Leti CavazosThe Canneta Center is more than a mental health facility; they provide professional training to enhance clinical development, including topics such as research trends, Spanish-speaking trainings, and seminars on how to work with a Spanish-speaking population. They became so popular – and attracted practitioners from around the world – that the Center had to limit attendance.

Beyond its services, the Center continues to give back in other ways; employees volunteer with the Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas (HWNT) and the Latinas in Progress program, which mentors high school students and sets them on the path to college.

“That’s one of the things that really excites me,” Cavazos said. “If you look at the number of Latinas with master’s degrees and doctorates, we’re the lowest of any demographic.”

While Center Canneta’s growth has been huge, Cavazos admits it hasn’t been without its challenges. “I’m not naturally an extrovert, and having to go out and network and try to help them understand why they should partner with us has been real growth for me,” Cavazos said.

Despite this, Cavazos feels lucky to have a talented group of practitioners ready to come on board. “I probably have the best group of people who signed up without hesitation,” she said. “And then seeing the impact they have, and knowing that we’re actually serving a community that hadn’t really been served before, that fills my heart every time.”