Rocío Calvo

Rocío Calvo. Photo by Lee Pellegrini for BC News.

Rocío Calvo, the founding director of the Latinx Leadership Initiative in the Boston College School of Social Work, has received the 2022 Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award, which recognizes educators who have inspired their former students to achieve greatness.

Calvo was nominated for the award by Jessica Gutierrez, a 2016 graduate of the LLI who founded an affinity group for young immigrants in the Somerville, Massachusetts, public school system.

“I am very honored to be a recipient of the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award,” said Calvo, an associate professor whose research focuses on the role that social services play in integrating immigrants into American society. “I’m very fortunate to work every day with incredible LLI students and alumni who are transforming the way we serve the Latinx community.”

The Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award Trust was established in 2008 under the will of Gail McKnight Beckman, who created the award in memory of her mother, a pioneer in the field of psychology who advocated the advancement of women in academia. While Calvo is among more than 130 educators who have received the award since its inception in 2010, she is one of only a few social work professors who have been honored for inspiring their former students to make a significant contribution to society. 

Calvo founded the LLI in 2013, designing a cohort-based program that has prepared more than 200 bilingual and bicultural social workers to accompany Latinx communities in developing sustainable solutions to complex problems in health, education, housing, and other areas. Students in the program take courses in Spanish, complete internships in schools, hospitals, and prisons, and conduct cutting-edge research that shapes social workers’ strategies to support Latinx clients.

Jessica Gutierrez

Jessica Gutierrez. Courtesy photo.

Gutierrez said Calvo inspired her to create the Therapeutic Group for Newcomers, which uses narrative therapy and trauma-informed practices to promote the education and growth of young immigrants from countries such as Guatemala, Honduras, and Venezuela. She grew up in El Salvador and immigrated to the United States at 13, but she said she felt out of place in the U.S. until she stepped foot in her first class with Calvo and joined the LLI.

“It was the first time in my life where I felt that my story was important,” said Gutierrez, who is now paying it forward by mentoring current students in the LLI. “She inspired me to believe that I can do more, that I am valued, and that I shouldn’t be hiding from who I am.” 

Seventh-graders in her group at the Winter Hill Community Innovation School in Somerville are currently writing books that take stock of their lives. Gutierrez has asked them to reflect on their journey to the U.S., what life is like now, and what they hope to accomplish in the future.  

“The purpose is to empower them to share their story and see how far they’ve come,” said Gutierrez, who also runs a private practice for Spanish-speaking clients. “But I also want to empower them to go further and envision what their futures may look like.”

Calvo remembered Gutierrez as a brilliant, hard-working student and praised her unwavering commitment to serving the Latinx community. She compared the ethos of her group program to that of the LLI, saying that both aim to make students feel like they are part of one big family. 

“Jessica strives every day for the children to have a positive experience from which they can grow,” said Calvo. “As in the LLI, students in her group have developed a sense of belonging to a big family at school.”