An SLP student shares her journey to the profession
Carmela Delacruz was teaching English to preschoolers in Seoul, South Korea, when she realized she wanted to be a speech-language pathologist.
Teaching was already a second act of sorts for Delacruz, who had taken a job with a startup company curating corporate snack programs following her graduation with a bachelor’s in telecommunications studies with a minor in business from Texas A&M University. Her original dream had been to create broadcast programming, a goal inspired by her older sister, who has Down syndrome.
“I wanted to make appropriate television for kids with special needs,” Delacruz said. “I quickly found out that it was a market I couldn’t get into easily.”
Ready to move on from her startup role, she decided to teach abroad while deciding on a graduate program of study. She was focused on finance, health administration or higher education, until a friend suggested she look into speech-language pathology. Delacruz took her advice, read up on the field and realized it checked a lot of boxes for both her professional and personal interests.
Delacruz needed to complete prerequisites to qualify for admission to master’s speech-language pathology programs. She discovered the Graduate Certification in Communication Sciences & Disorders, a leveling program offered by the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the School of Health Professions. She applied to the online program and was accepted.
Meanwhile, Delacruz was singlehandedly teaching a dozen 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds how to speak English in person as COVID-19 spread around the globe.
“I was supposed to have the time of my life,” she said, explaining that the day she arrived in Seoul, COVID-19 cases were soaring. “Thus became my one-year journey of being a full-time teacher and a full-time student.”
After completing the leveling program, Delacruz ultimately chose to attend UT Health San Antonio’s Master of Speech-Language Pathology program, not only because of its location near her family in San Antonio but also because of the faculty support she received while in the certificate program. That support has continued in her first year in the master’s program.
“I can’t tell you how often the teachers here check on me,” she said. “There are 46 of us. How do they know we need that kind of support? With how passionate they are, they make me want to learn more.”
Even though Delacruz initially planned to work with children, her experiences in the program have broadened her interests.
“Another reason speech-language pathology is an amazing career is you work through the lifespan,” she said. “I went into this thinking I wanted to work with children, but here I am one semester in and I’m now interested in traumatic brain injury and working with adults.”
Speech-language pathology offers much more than most people realize, Delacruz said
“We don’t just work with communication,” she said. “We work with cognition, with swallowing —.these basic life necessities we take for granted.”
Delacruz found her way to a profession that allows her to help people, which was her goal in the very beginning.
“I love being that catalyst for communication, being able to help somebody be able to communicate their wants and needs.”