Program: CHCI-United Health Foundation Scholar-Intern
Hometown: Brownsville, Texas
School: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Major: Masters in Public Health
Valeria Salazar Balli was born in Heroica Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, the border city to Brownsville, Texas. At the age of 12, her parents decided to migrate to Brownsville, in hopes of providing a better future for her family. Migrating to a different city was not easy, especially since the cost of living in Texas was higher than Mexico. Due to low monetary resources, all of the family members acquired jobs to overcome any money difficulties together. Valeria found herself as a middle school student working evenings and weekends along with learning a new language and struggling in new classes. At times, it was difficult to persevere. The first two years in Brownsville were a challenge but together, Valeria and her family were able to move forward.
As time passed, Valeria’s family was able to adapt to their lives in Brownsville. All the immigration documents were fixed; Valeria became a legal resident when she was 16 years old. This allowed her to obtained a job at the mall, which helped her practice her English and become confident while speaking it, as well as to earn extra money. Valeria was also fortunate to be a GEAR UP student, participating in many events and classes that allowed her to learn about the steps to apply for college. She took advantage of Summer Programs, College Visits and Tutorials provided by the GEAR UP program. Valeria graduated High School as a Certified Pharmacy Technician with more than 30 hours of college credits. Valeria understands that at times things may seem hard, or maybe even impossible, but patience, perseverance and dedication can take you where you want to go. Valeria started her undergraduate career at the University of Texas Pan American, today known as the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
During her undergraduate years, Valeria became a leader in her community by volunteering as a college mentor, a peer educator, and an officer for multiple student organizations. Valeria was passionate about being able to provide quality service care for those individuals who did not speak English. She became involved in the Student Association for Medical Spanish where one of the main goals was to overcome the language barrier among non-Spanish speakers and non-English speakers. This led Valeria to participate in a medical brigade in Playa Gigante, Nicaragua. During the course of one week, she and a group of bilingual students were able to assist the community by serving as medical interpreters. From door-to-door, Valeria learned about the importance of public health and how health literacy can truly be beneficial for a community. Thanks to Valeria’s hard work she was able to receive enough scholarships and grants to completely pay her tuition during her four years of college. Valeria graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and a minor in Biology and Medical Spanish.
Today, Valeria is a second-year graduate student at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, in the San Antonio Regional Campus. Her passion for Public Health grows every day. Valeria is a part-time employee at the CentroMed Clinics in San Antonio, where she assists and educates the community about their Healthcare Insurance. In her short time in San Antonio, Valeria has had the opportunity to interact with Spanish speakers, who constantly remind her of the importance of overcoming the language barrier. Valeria finds the opportunity of serving others fulfilling and hopes to be able to make a difference in her community. She understands that through dedication, hard-work, perseverance and a lot of faith nothing is impossible. Valeria’s future goals are to become a medical doctor and be able to use her expertise in public health to help her community become healthier, as well as to provide quality healthcare in Spanish. Valeria is proud to be part of the CHCI Familia and hopes to be a great asset in the State of Texas.