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2018 NASW/Texas Award Recipients
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The NASW/Texas Awards seek to honor the achievements of NASW/Texas members throughout their professional careers, as well as honor the contributions of publicly-elected officials, public citizens, and members of the media whose work upholds the values and mission of social work. Award recipients are nominated by their branches and selected through a review and voting process by the NASW/Texas Board of Directors. The 2018 Award Recipients were honored during the Opening Plenary at the 42nd Annual NASW/Texas State Conference in Arlington, Texas, on October 11, 2018. 


Congratulations to the 2018 NASW/Texas Award Recipients featured below and to everyone recognized by their local branches for their extraordinary work in our profession.









2018 lifetime achievement award

Sandra S. Brackenridge, LCSW, BCD


Each year, the Texas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers selects a social worker for this award to celebrate a lifetime of accomplishments. In honoring the Lifetime Achievement Award winner, NASW/Texas recognizes the best social work values and accomplishments demonstrated throughout the social worker’s lifetime. Recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Awards demonstrate repeated outstanding achievements, make contributions of lasting impact, exemplify outstanding creativity, and receive recognition beyond the social work profession.


Sandra Brackenridge, LCSW, BCD, is the 2018 recipient of the NASW/Texas Social Worker Lifetime Achievement Award. Sandra is private practice clinical social worker, who provides clinical supervision to approximately 25‐30 Master Level Social Workers working towards LCSW. She is also a Veterinary Social Worker and a field instructor at the Center for Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Care, a self‐employed Veterinary Social Work Program Consultant, and an affiliate faculty at University of Tennessee Veterinary Social Work Certificate Program. This year, Sandra retired as a Tenured Associate Professor of Social Work at Texas Woman’s University. 

At TWU, Sandra held a multitude of positions, ranging from serving on the Undergraduate Council and Academic Success Subcommittee to the Social Work Program Faculty Search Committees. She was awarded Texas Woman’s University Faculty Advisor of the Year and TWU Favorite Faculty. Sandra introduced a well‐received elective on grieving and created a field practicum placement in veterinary clinics for social work students. Sandra has many chapters, journal articles, and books to credit her literary contribution to the field of social work. In addition, Sandra is highly admired and respected for the guidance and professional development she provides to so many social workers seeking clinical supervision while working towards their LCSW.

Sandra has been a tireless pioneer for the field of Veterinary Social Work. As the previous Coordinator of Counseling Services at the School of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana State University to a Veterinary Social Work Program Consultant, she continues to leave an impactful legacy in this specialty of the social work field.

Her years of experience and compassion have left a lasting effect on the personal lives of those she supervises and improved the quality of clinical care provided by social workers. Sandra’s contributions to the social work field will have a lasting impact, and can be examples of aspirations to other professionals within our field. Through Sandra’s creativity, advocacy, and professionalism she has uniquely fostered a sought after presence within the community, and those she serves. Sandra has provided academic teaching to hundreds of students who now possess licenses across the United States. Additionally, Sandra provides supervision to those wishing to fulfill the requirements for full licensure. The clinical coaching provided by Sandra in these supervision sessions are actively saving lives within our community.

Sandra continues to demonstrate an exceptional ability to advocate for social work values, displays unparalleled leadership, and advances the social work profession in a multitude of ways. The contributions to the social work field Sandra has made will continue to edify, shape, and support not only our profession, but the community in which she serves, for many years to come. 


NASW-Texas is proud to recognize Sandra Brackenridge, a nationally recognized practitioner, educator, and scholar, to celebrate her lifetime achievements as a leader, advocate, and champion in the field of Veterinary Social Work!


Nominated by the Texoma Branch




2018 Social Worker of the Year

Esmeralda (Amy) Barrera-Kovach, LCSW-CCM


The Social Worker of the Year Award honors a member of NASW/Texas who exemplifies the best of the profession’s values and achievements. In honoring the Social Worker of the Year, NASW highlights superb accomplishments in the practice of social work. The Social Worker of the Year demonstrates outstanding leadership, advocates for clients, and takes risks to achieve outstanding results.


Esmeralda (Amy) Barrera-Kovach is this year’s Social Worker of the Year award winner. Ms. Barrera-Kovach is a lifelong Galvestonian who grew up in public housing with a large family. She is a proud mother of three, a devoted wife, and friend to many in the community. Amy’s career began at UTMB Hospital, working with organ transplant recipients and their families, where she developed a devotion to social justice, supporting and empowering people who often found little support elsewhere.

Her career then took her to Shriner’s Burn Hospital, where she found a new calling, caring for survivors of trauma, especially burn injuries. Amy educated herself regarding the numerous societies and foundations available to survivors, and the myriad of needs survivors and their families face.  Amy also found an opportunity to advocate for a new group of patients – children – and to flex her therapeutic skills while working with kids from North and Central America.  

In 2008, Amy left her own family, who had just lost their house and belongings in Hurricane Ike, to follow Shriner patients to other hospitals around the US, as the Galveston facility was unusable following the storm, especially focusing on the care of Spanish-speaking patients, advocating for their unique needs. Amy’s work at Shriner’s also provided lectures on child abuse and burns during annual workshops and meetings, sharing best practices with colleagues.

After seven years, Amy moved back to UTMB, to the award‐winning Blocker Burn Unit, where she provided daily crisis intervention, case management, and counseling to her patients, worked on her supervision plan for clinical social work and provided regular leadership to colleagues who often sought her guidance. 

Additionally, she:

  • Advocated for the Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress to hold its annual meeting in Galveston
  • Coordinated and grew the Blocker Burn Champions fund
  • Created a 5K fun run/walk to increase awareness of the challenges and abilities of burn survivors
  • Created a new chapter of Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery, a program that provides peer support to burn survivors
  • Conceived of and edited the book, Burn Survivors Journey: Real Stories of Challenge, Strength and Triumph, IN ENGLISH AND IN SPANISH, which supports survivors and the families of those who did not survive traumatic burn events. 

Currently, Amy practices Medical and Clinical Social Work as adjunct faculty in the Department of Family Medicine, where she has undertaken a broader range of services to include working with patients dealing with depression, domestic violence, grief and loss, sexual abuse, disability, mental health, chronic medical conditions, and adult and child protection cases. She has become a staunch advocate for the LGBTQ community in accessing quality healthcare and has especially become a strong support person and voice for the transgender community.

Amy has worked tirelessly over the past twenty years, serving those who are disenfranchised and disadvantaged. She has made a significant commitment to working with her patients and their families, thus reflecting a positive image and acting as a role model for all in the social work profession.

It is an honor to present Amy Barrera-Kovach with the Social Worker of the Year award, for her work as a leader, advocate, and champion, serving burn patients and their families, as well as people from all backgrounds, struggling to access the services that can best meet their needs!


Nominated by the Gulf Coast Branch




2018 Social Work Student of the Year

jason fernandez


The Social Work Student of the Year Award honors a student member of NASW/Texas who is enrolled at least halftime (as defined by their school) in a graduate or undergraduate Social Work Program and has made an outstanding contribution to the goals and mission of the profession. The Social Work Student of the Year demonstrates leadership, a commitment to social justice, the profession of social work, and clients, and the integration of social work knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values.


Jason Fernandez is the NASW/Texas Student of the Year. He is enrolled in the Graduate College of Social Work Hybrid Program at the University of Houston. With a Master of Arts in Behavioral Sciences, he has a strong understanding of mental health and direct practice, and he brings this advanced knowledge to his MSW work and readily shares it with others. As a student, Jason is a leader in his cohort, as proven by his guidance and reliability. He sets a high standard for himself, as well his colleagues in the social work program. Jason is a true inspiration to other students, motivating others to ask more questions and do more than just what is expected, demonstrating his leadership in a positive way, by encouraging and setting the example with other students. 

Jason is pursuing his Master of Social Work because he believes in the importance of social justice, environmental factors, human relationships, and a strength-based perspective. He has set a long-term goal of getting his PhD in Social Work to continue with knowledge-building and dissemination for profession. To this end, he was selected to give an oral presentation at the 2017 Graduate Research & Scholarship Project (GRaSP) on Death and Dying, where he was awarded first place for his research presentation. He continues to help as a research assistant, working with faculty on a NSF grant, looking at social support and physical and cognitive functioning of older adults in assisted living facilities.

Jason also demonstrates his commitment to social justice through many avenues. During the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the community college where Jason works was closed, but opened its doors as a shelter for people displaced by the floods. Jason volunteered at the shelter, spending three days as one of the top two people in charge of operations. He quickly jumped into action to create a smooth running facility. In addition, Jason brought social work values to the services of the shelter. He trained volunteers to treat the guests with respect and dignity, beginning with calling them “guests”, and providing individual tours upon arrival, with customized services beyond the basics of food and shelter. During this time, he continually reached out to other students to ensure that everyone’s needs were met. 

We are proud to recognize Jason Fernandez as a leader, advocate, and champion and a future social worker, whom we will all be honored to call colleague! 

Nominated by the Houston Branch




2018 Public Citizen of the Year

Maria machado


The Public Citizen of the Year Award honors an outstanding member of the community whose accomplishments exemplify the values and mission of the profession of social work and who has acted with courage to make a significant contribution to an area or population of concern to the social work profession such as: at-risk or vulnerable populations, quality of life in communities, or social issues.


Maria Machado is the 2018 NASW/Texas Public Citizen of the Year. In her thirty-second year as Executive Director of the non-profit Shared Housing Center Dallas which provides and facilitates affordable housing options, she does it all: case management, counseling of clients, maintaining the agency's budget and assets and ongoing fundraising to meet their annual and capital budget needs. Under her direction, the agency has grown from an operating budget of $35,000 to just over $750,000. She has steered the agency to pursue successful capital campaigns totaling $5,000,000 during the last fifteen years, added a mental health counseling component for clients needing services, developed a community collaborative children’s programs for client children and, in 2014, created an all-green (LEED-certified), newly-constructed, 24-unit community to provide a supportive housing environment for single parent, female head-of-household families with dependent children, as well as disabled and older adult (50+) single, homeless women. 


Maria is described as an eminently capable and courageous leader. Most distinctive is her ability to keep all things in balance. While she is passionate about her work and the clients she serves, she also always keeps the business side of her work in perspective. Her responses to demands, needs, and wishes are never off-the-cuff or rash, but reasonable and well thought out.


She is remarkable in her ability to keep in focus the long-term vision, while dealing with the day to day crises. In this respect she is unflappable. She deals with each specific task or challenge that comes her way (and they come in multiples daily) with a quiet and measured temper, and using all of her past experience and best intuition to come up with the best possible solution. Maria Machado has dedicated her entire profession to assisting those who are oppressed, under-served, and living in poverty, truly embodying the mission of the social work profession.


It is an honor to present Maria Machado with the Public Citizen of the Year award for her work as a leader, advocate and champion of effective community engagement, serving those who are impoverished, striving toward the goal of safe and permanent housing!

Nominated by the North Central Texas-Dallas Area Branch










































2018 PUBLIC elected official OF THE YEAR

sylvester turner 


The Public Elected Official of the Year Award recognizes outstanding service and contributions of an elected official who has shown leadership in the formulation of public policy, particularly policies that affect social justice, health care, education, civil and human rights, and social practice. 


Sylvester Turner is the 2018 NASW/Texas Public Elected Official of the Year. Turner is serving his first four-year term as Houston’s 62nd mayor. Mayor Turner’s civic leadership has been nationally recognized through his service as a member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Transportation and Communications Standing Committee, Vice Chair of the National Climate Action Agenda, member of the C40 and Global Covenant for Mayor’s for Climate and Energy and an advisory board member of the African American Mayors Association. He is also the recipient of the Ohtli Award, the Mexican government’s highest honor.


One of the mayor’s signature initiatives is Complete Communities, which aims to improve the quality of life for residents in all neighborhoods. The mayor’s other priorities include filling more than 90,000 potholes on city streets, implementing a six-point holistic plan for addressing homelessness, reducing flooding, and improving drainage.

Turner truly embraces social work values and he understands the value of social workers. Shortly after Hurricane Harvey, Mayor Turner released a public call for social workers to assist in providing much-needed crisis and mental health services to those impacted by the storm. Mayor Turner knew that social workers have the strength s and skills needed for this difficult task. Hundred s of social workers were mobilized because of this and provided the bulk of mental health service.

Additionally, Mayor Turner is commended for his creation of a LGBTQIA+ Task Force. The task force is composed of 49 LGBTQIA+ identified Houston community members in memoriam of the 49 who died at Pulse Night Club in Orlando. The group is comprised of high school students, business individuals, community activists, and social workers. 

Prior to his election as mayor, Turner served for 27 years in the Texas House as the representative for District 139. He worked on the House Appropriations Committee for 21 years and served as Speaker Pro Tem for three terms. He was appointed to several Budget Conference Committees to help balance the state’s budget and served on the Legislative Budget Board. During his 27 years of service in the Texas House of Representatives, Mayor Turner was a consistently outspoken advocate for underserved and underrepresented communities. In 2015, he was named one of the top 10 legislators on LGBT issues by Equality Texas, and is famous for bringing an abacus on the House floor to remind his colleagues that he was watching their appropriations spending.

We salute Mayor Turner for his continuing efforts to stand and support not only social justice issues, but also the social workers who stand with him in bringing awareness and advocacy to those issues to the forefront. He completely embodies and practices the social justice values embraced by social workers.

We are honored to recognize Sylvester Turner, an internationally recognized leader, advocate and champion for community development, fiscal responsibility and the rights of marginalized populations.

Nominated by the Houston Branch
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