For University of Houston-Victoria student Sheena Sharma, majoring in communications was a logical step in her journey to give a voice to children and teenagers suffering from domestic violence and sexual assault.
Sharma, a Stafford resident who takes online classes from UHV, began her mission six years ago as a guardian ad litem with Child Advocates of Fort Bend.
“I would go to court and represent the child’s best interests between Child Protective Services and the Fort Bend District Attorney’s Office,” she said. “I was basically the child’s voice in court.”
Sharma received the Hero Award for her work from 2004 to 2007 and said helping abused and neglected children prompted her to major in communications and learn more about creating public awareness.
“I chose this field because I want to continue making a difference by using my voice and writing to create campaigns, and be a major influence in public policy and communications reflecting children who have endured so much,” Sharma said.
Sharma used her experiences to write an essay that helped her win the Michael V. Baldwin scholarship from UHV in 2008. She expects to graduate in the summer.
“I was ecstatic when I received the scholarship,” Sharma said. “I never knew my goals could become reality, but you have to want it and work hard. It’s all about not giving up.”
This past summer, she was offered an internship at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Houston.
“I had the opportunity to contribute to articles and press releases, as well as coordinate media events,” Sharma said. “I got so much valuable hands-on experience, and just seeing the spirit and strength of the children really meant a lot to me.”
The internship led Sharma to her current position as a community specialist for youth at the Houston Area Women’s Center. Her main focus is to educate teens about dating violence as she visits and speaks at schools around Houston. She also works with organizations and media outlets to get the word out about HAWC.
“We’re trying to promote a healthy image for youth,” she said. “It’s so important because how teens see themselves is going to reflect what kind of relationships they will have.”
She said every day is a challenge when working within domestic violence and sexual assault prevention, but being able to empower children and help create change makes it all worthwhile.
The UHV Outstanding Student is an online feature highlighting the exceptional students who attend the University of Houston-Victoria. To nominate a student, contact UHV Communications Manager Paula Cobler or call 361-570-4350.