Dr. Selma Yznaga, associate professor of counseling at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, has been awarded the 2018 Kitty Cole Human Rights Award by theAssociation for Multicultural Counseling and Development.

Yznaga, a long-time member of AMCD, was recognized for her advocacy work in the Rio Grande Valley.

“Advocacy for human rights is my passion, and to be recognized by peers who are interested in the same work is especially humbling,” she said.

Yznaga manages the Buena Vida Housing Development in Brownsville, where she and her graduate counseling students provide pro bono counseling services to those in need.

She also has been involved with the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, where she trained volunteers who serve as child advocates, and serves as one herself.

Advocates are assigned a child in an immigration detention center, visiting each week and “getting to know the child and help identify their best interests,” she said.

In addition to the visits, they also accompany the children to immigration court to provide support during what can be an intimidating experience. Yznaga said that, too often, children in that position have to appear in court alone.

A Brownsville native, Yznaga has worked in Houston, Austin and San Antonio, but said she always manages to find her way back home.

“The people in the Valley are some of the most compassionate and resourceful that I’ve ever met, and the sense of community is not something that I have found anywhere else,” she said.