UCF graduate student Diana Abarca is one of three students nationwide selected to receive a $5,000 Minority Student Scholarship at the 2018 American Speech-Language-Hearing-Association convention Nov. 15-17 in Boston.

The ASHFoundation chose the communication sciences and disorders master’s degree student for the scholarship based on her academic achievement and promise, and the foundation will make the award.

Abarca earned her bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders at UCF as a Burnett Honors College student and graduated with a 3.99 GPA. As an honors student, she completed a thesis on the role of adolescent mothers in their child’s development of language and literacy under the mentorship of Assistant Professor Jacqueline Towson. Abarca went on to volunteer in Towson’s lab, serve as her lab coordinator ― a position she still holds, and coauthor three manuscripts, one already published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“Diana is an exemplary student and person,” Towson said. “Through her research and writing experiences at the university level, she has shown her impeccable scholarship at UCF.”

As an undergraduate, Abarca made a service-learning trip to Nicaragua to help implement health and engineering projects in two rural communities.

“Her proficiency in Spanish and English allowed her to interact first-hand with families in rural Nicaragua,” said Associate Professor Linda I. Rosa-Lugo, also interim assistant dean of faculty excellence, graduate and global affairs for the College of Health Professions and Sciences. “The experience awakened a deep sense of service in Diana.”

Abarca developed a passion for helping others as a high-school student and founded her own nonprofit, Charisma’s Crayons, to empower at-risk students. Today she is passionate about extending speech-language pathology services to underserved populations, particularly those in developing countries, and to adolescent parents and their families, she said.

After completing her master’s degree at UCF ― with support from her newly earned scholarship ― Abarca plans to pursue a doctorate and conduct research focused on families of underserved populations.

UCF Faculty and Student Presentations at the Convention

UCF’s School of Communication Sciences and Disorders will be well represented at the 2018 ASHA convention, with 13 faculty members and six graduate students presenting their research: http://bit.ly/2DEv5Wn.