UHV outstanding education students driven to help people

When Katy resident Aubry Barone walks across the stage Dec. 10 at University of Houston-Victoria’s fall commencement, she will become the first person in her family to graduate from college.

Aubry Barone

“My mom keeps crying because she’s so happy,” Barone said. “I’ve worked since I was 13 doing odd jobs so I could help my family with money. She says I deserve this day because of all my hard work.”

Barone will graduate with the honor of being selected the UHV School of Education, Health Professions & Human Development Outstanding Undergraduate Student for the fall semester. Jamie Salas of Victoria was named the school’s Outstanding Graduate Student.

Each semester, professors from UHV’s three schools select outstanding graduates to be honored during commencement. UHV will hold fall commencement at 11 a.m. Dec. 10 in the Leonard E. Merrell Center, 6301 S. Stadium Lane in Katy. Live streaming of the ceremony can be seen at

Barone will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education with an English as a Second Language endorsement. She aspires to be an elementary school teacher. Growing up, Barone had a knack for explaining learning materials to herself.

“I just happened to fall in love with explaining different learning concepts,” she said. “It turned into a love affair of teaching.”

Barone is a student teacher at Bear Creek Elementary School in Houston.

“Growing up in an Italian family, I never experienced such diversity in complete depth,” Barone said. “Bear Creek has an excellent representation of our world today. It doesn’t limit or hinder children of any background.”

After starting her studies at UH-Downtown and Houston Community College, Barone said she had a great experience taking education courses at UHV. Her time at the university made her understand that her contribution to the world will come from teaching.

“Ms. Barone is an exceptional student and will become an exceptional teacher,” said Fred Litton, dean of the UHV School of Education, Health Professions & Human Development. “I had the privilege of having her in one of my classes in Katy. She has overcome many obstacles in her quest for a degree.”

Jamie Salas

Salas also faced challenges on her way to earning a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. She works full time and is raising three children with her husband. Salas took classes after work and frequently stayed up late studying.

“I think I took more classes than most people would in my situation, but I had to get it done,” she said. “I had a purpose, and it drove me. I’m the first person in my family to get a master’s degree, so I wanted to be a role model for my kids and my nieces and nephews.”

Salas said she’s always been interested in the counseling field. The majority of what she does in her job as a kinship specialist for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is support caregivers attempting to take care of family members.

“They face a lot of struggles,” Salas said. “It’s natural for me to help and provide support to people.”

Fred Litton

Salas said she liked several aspects of UHV’s mental health counseling program, including the small class sizes.

“It was very personable,” she said. “We had access to professors at all times. I also liked the exploration learning. We had a chance to interview counselors in the field and attend support meetings. It helped bring a realness to what I was learning. My experience at UHV also taught me to become a better listener at work.”

Salas plans to take her national counseling certification and start obtaining hours for licensure. She’s still debating what to do with her graduate degree. She’s leaning toward working at a nonprofit organization and would like to stay in the Crossroads region.

“Ms. Salas has excelled in her class work and clinical practicums,” Litton said. “She is well on track to become a top-notch counselor.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Jeremy Shapiro